What Normal Life Looks Like

It’s different for everyone.,


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Welcome. A couple of weeks ago, I asked what “back to normal” means to you. The resumption of an activity? A reunion with family? Being inside without masks and not fretting about it? Here’s what you said.

For Carlee Clarke in Frankfurt, Germany, “going back to normal means traveling without fear of judgment from others, without feeling like an irresponsible parent, without juggling quarantines and tests.” For Mary from Minnesota, “It means everyone stops saying ‘Stay safe.'”

Taylor Corbaley in Omaha wrote, “Going back to normal would mean shaking hands with my professors after a class, or high-fiving children after they finish their research participation in my lab. I’ve genuinely forgotten how nice it is to touch hands with someone in gratitude, and to not feel a sense of worry after that brief connection.”

“Normal, for me, will be when I spontaneously rest my head on a friend’s shoulder in a moment of shared laughter,” wrote Mallory Findlay from Chapel Hill, N.C. Eric Mariasis in Westford, Mass., says, “It will be nice just to give casual hugs to friends.”

For Katherine Jones in Little Rock, Ark., normal is “business casual, full makeup, daycare drop-off, a to-go coffee and a drive to the office with a podcast, playlist or NPR before settling in at my desk.”

“Back to normal will be sitting in a relatively packed movie theater with a bag of popcorn,” says Bronwyn Lepore from Philadelphia. “Everyone is chattering away, but then the room goes dark, the screen lights up and we settle in and forget the outside world for a couple of hours.”

Ivo in Sacramento lost her home during the pandemic: “My back-to-normal is living in a safe, stable, clean and secure home, with four walls and a couple of windows with a front door,” she wrote. “Before Covid, my normal was so easy, stressless compared to after Covid. I miss my previous normal life so very much.”

Mary Tennes in Oakland, Calif., is one of many who’s hoping for a new definition of normal: “I look forward to a new and different focus on community, a way of living more in touch with the rhythms of the body and the natural world, a redefinition of what’s most important. I do want to hug my friends again, and talk without masks, and have dinners together, but I also deeply want our world to continue to change in a way that recognizes that we’re all part of a collective whose wholeness needs tending.”


Adam Grant puts a name to the way you might be feeling lately: “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

Here’s a 7-year-old Yo-Yo Ma performing for President Kennedy, in 1962.

On Thursday, April 22, at 7 p.m. Eastern time, join T Book Club, which focuses on classic works of American literature, for a discussion of Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” led by the writer Edmund White. R.S.V.P. here.

I wanted to hear “In Between Days” by The Cure for its title’s relevance to the current moment, but I found myself mesmerized by how close together the unmasked audience was in this live video from 1985.

And I’m enjoying “Did Someone Say Emoji?,” a newsletter from Jennifer Daniel, a former graphics editor at The Times and the chair of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee. If you’ve ever wondered what goes into the creation of, say, ? the different colored heart emoji ?, or which emoji to use to communicate that you’ve just received your first shot, this is the (other) newsletter for you.

Tell us.

If you’ve received the vaccine, how has it changed your days, if at all? Write to us: athome@nytimes.com. Include your name, age and location. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. As always, more ideas for leading a full and cultured life at home and near it appear below. I’ll be back on Friday.

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