You often hear from people now that they didn’t want to go back to their old life. Or they don’t want substantial parts of it back. The many trips, the rush, the dead time at gates, the long evenings.
At dreary receptions and events, the conferences where you play on your smartphone, appointments across Germany and around the world. The shutdown evoked a longing: first for a stop, then for a no-longer-again, then for change.
And that’s the peculiar thing: it took a pandemic to open our eyes. Not with all of them, of course. I was also told a lot of longing for the world of yesterday – from people who live from encounters and exchanges and networks. They draw their purpose, fulfillment and often their livelihood from it. There are also people who need the office as a structure and source of energy – they often see and feel emptiness around the laptop at home.
Still others want to be on the move as a backdrop. “I need this,” the partner recently admitted to a consultation. The business trip, the rolling suitcase over conveyor belts, the taxis to the appointments, the meeting, the deal, all of this on a stage of confirmation: Something moves here because you move.
Faltering hamster wheel
But why is the chorus of those who do not want the old life back so loud? Was her life so empty, bad or absurd before?
Often it is actually breaks and cuts that make us pause: the hamster wheel stops, the hectic pace breaks off. Briefly we hear life and not just the striving that drowns out everything. Sometimes it’s a stroke of fate, an illness or an accident. “That’s it,” said a friend of mine to his boss after a serious car accident. He couldn’t and didn’t want to go back, even if the boss wanted to; he sensed the next chapter.
Our lives are often so crammed with things that are all very urgent that we no longer hear the first-person question “What do I actually want to do and achieve?” Like a melody that is drowned out by the noise of everyday life.
Even in the evening we don’t hear them, on the sofa, the bottle of wine is open, Netflix is on an endless loop. The rest is the compulsion that every generation felt: house or apartment – must be paid for – the children’s hobbies, skiing holidays, the holiday home, preferably with a pool. A lifestyle apparatus that we build, expand and enjoy, but which also holds us captive.
The shutdown was a collective turning point, we were all stopped. They were zero points, usually without a stroke of fate. There were weeks in which you could hear the “What do I want?” Question again. Listen to yourself: what do you think of when you see another shutdown?
Whether we can really find the courage to change something is the next question (see our cover story in the new issue 11/2020). We can talk ourselves into a lot, know how to appreciate some new things, and rediscover them. But if the question of change doesn’t stop drilling into us, we should pursue it.
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