In 2020, Americans saw a slew of historic headlines that were as frequent as they were surreal.

While hope for a return to normalcy marked the beginning of this year, it became apparent within the first month that the trend continues.

In January, as a result of a forum post on Reddit, GameStop stock skyrocketed. A wave of individuals invested in the company to outsmart short sellers. The result was a phenomenon never seen before in the stock market due to the sheer number of amateur traders who invested in the struggling company.

This instance makes me reflect on the bizarre atmosphere that has tinted the United States since the pandemic.

Why did the Black Lives Matter protests have record-breaking turnouts in summer? Why was there a coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol earlier this year? Why was

everyone making sourdough bread at the beginning of the shutdown?

The commonality underlying all of these disparate occurrences is time gained. People who would normally not be able to risk termination now have the ability to protest for a cause they care about.

The Capitol had not been stormed at that scale since 1814. This year, people had enough time and energy to plan and execute a coup attempt over the election (which also had record-breaking turnout).

When a sizable chunk of the population is not working, and when the 40-hour workweek has been obliterated for those who are, the United States can turn away from the concept of work as meaning and begin to broaden its definition.

Additionally, not leaving the house has become our civic duty — so what does productivity now mean when a “go-go-go” society is suddenly forced to stop?

This means work has taken a step back from the forefront of American life. For me, the result of unemployment and staying in has been a mixed bag. There is something very rewarding about earning your money, and as restaurants continuously shut down, that reward has been missing for me this past year.

However, through not working and social distancing, I have had the time to find value in things unrelated to productivity.

My days have been filled with reading, yoga, crosswords and lots of introspection. Having the privilege to do these things during such a tumultuous time must be acknowledged.

But through COVID-19, I have been able to experience a newfound appreciation for things that do not add productivity, success or wealth to my life.

As we have seen, the moratorium from work has had a powerful impact on society. This has the potential to cause not only bizarre major events but large, sweeping change. Who knows if this new American way of life will last any longer than the pandemic does?

It’s become fairly evident that it takes a lot to get the American people to stop working. For now, I will continue to enjoy working hard at my current job of unemployment … so who do I see about getting a raise?

Making It Through is a column by Santa Fe workers and business people about the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Zoe Sherman is a St. John’s College graduate living in Santa Fe.

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