Santa Fe looks entirely different from just a couple of months ago.
The city experienced such a quick shift, going from a red COVID-19 zone to turquoise (the least restrictive) within a month and a half. It seemed Santa Fe immediately gained back all of the tourists it had lost.
I have been unemployed since the state was limited to outdoor dining in November. Now, as I walk through the restaurant patio in the beautiful Santa Fe springtime, adults look around like newborns, relearning how the world works.
I would bet the rebirth of spring cannot be felt anywhere more than here at the moment. Everything feels almost normal again … until I see someone stand up and put a mask on.
The concept of reemergence, perhaps even reinvention, feels more prominent this spring than any year past. After the hibernation of global lockdowns and social distancing, the world is charged up and, more than ever, ready to interact.
With vaccines rolling out across the country and everything beginning to reopen again, we are eager to come out of our socially distanced cocoons, emerging as flourishing butterflies. We can become entirely new. So much time has gone by, who even remembers what we were like before?
However, when one imagines reinvention, social adroitness is often a part of the image. The term “social skill” is truly that — something that must be practiced, honed and maintained.
Given the lack of social interaction everyone has experienced since the coronavirus, our skills are out of practice. The isolation that came along with the pandemic has induced social incompetency on a global scale. One of the bigger adjustments I have had to make in going back to work is learning how to “resocialize.”
Our masks protect us in more ways than one. They not only shield us from COVID-19, but also from the newfound terror of communicating with others.
A close friend of mine lived alone throughout the pandemic, seeing no one in person except when going to the store or taking her cat on walks. As she emerged from her cocoon, she began to experience social anxiety, which has quickly turned into agoraphobia.
She is certainly not the only one. Many of my customers have expressed how awkward and unfamiliar it feels to go out to a restaurant again.
However, we all need to recognize the universal nature of this anxiety. The world has experienced a collective wound of which we have all been affected.
After countless lives have been lost and following a year of involuntary reflection, I believe humanity has experienced some sort of shift in its mentality — perhaps more compassionate, more “humane.” The concept of social anxiety has entered the general conversation and will undoubtedly become more accepted as a legitimate health condition.
I hope the effect of the pandemic has impacted more than just this aspect of human empathy. For now, I will put my mask on, swallow my social anxiety and keep a keen eye open for more paradigm shifts in my daily life.