Given the pandemic, the stay at home orders and the shift to online learning, it has been a surreal few months. One day in March, we were sent home with the University closing due to the virus. Few of us thought it would be four months until we were able to return to campus. March now seems both very far in the past and just yesterday. It seems the pandemic has both compressed and dilated time. Working remotely from home while the kids learned remotely from home, social distancing, only going to the store for essentials while wearing a mask, the only social contact through the phone or computer screens has affected the way I perceive time. The timeline of the pandemic has also contributed to the distorted understanding of time. Initially we were told the lockdown would last for a month at most and by Easter we would be able to go back to our lives. With Easter long gone, the school year ended online with some students and teachers having checked out well before. Summer has brought more restrictions and more advisories. Vacations and travel plans were postponed and then canceled. The media has contributed to fear and uncertainty. Rather than any positive news, both print and screen media have focused on negative stories: the increases in cases, the deaths, the fights between people who wear masks and those who do not, the warning stories about parties out of control, the arguments between politicians about extensions of benefits for those who unfortunately lost their jobs. All the negativity has led to a renewed focus on the smallest subset of the family unit (husband/wife, kids) and a focus on work. Work that allowed for thinking of other things besides what’s going on but which absorbed much more time than before.
As schools prepare to start yet another school year, they quibble over modalities. One thing is clear, that even the fall semester won’t resemble anything close to the old normal. The question becomes, or it has long been, when are we going to go back to normal? Not having an end in sight affects the concept of time as much as everything else. Given all this, what are the long time effects on our understanding of time? Has it changed for everyone or just me? Will we be able to go back to “normal”?