By Valerie Rice | December 19, 2020
At this point, most of us have been following quarantine guidelines for so long that the real world no longer feels real. Our paradigms have shifted, and a new realm of existence has been entered. We are, after almost a year, entered into the “Natural State.” Yes, this is the state in which we are the most honest, authentic, and confused state of human imaginable. Not quite feral, not quite civilized, but we seek wholly unto ourselves and it. Feels. GOOD. Let’s explore that, shall we?
For decades , pleasantries and social niceties have guided our interactions with store clerks, employers, strangers, and even our families. Well, thanks to an extended social isolation, we have chosen to forgo many of these, and I am not at all sorry. Let me give you an example.. I used to walk to the corner store, chat about nothing as I bought my middle of the night Tylenol and electrolyte solution, and then bid them good evening before walking home. NOW I waltz in with all the swagger I can muster, plop my purchases down, and say, “Sup, sis? Wanna see my dog? He’s outside.”
At which point the entire staff leaves the store for a smoke break and we gather around my ADORABLE pit bull for cigarettes and coffee while discussing the horrors of capitalism. And if I someone not wearing a mask, I am not going to ignore it anymore, I am going to call them on it. Loudly. “Hey, it goes over YOUR NOSE AND MOUTH!” Yeah. Because I am tired. I will also yell at people in Wal-Greens. Someone got mad that a man at the counter was speaking Spanish and needed an interpreter, so he said “If he would speak English, this wouldn’t be a problem.” Since I am no longer inclined to hold my tongue, I opened my mouth and said, “Well, we have no official language in this country, and that man is welcome to speak f&*king Klingon if he wishes, and they have to get an interpreter. Maybe you should exercise a little tolerance, you ignorant colonizer.” I’m not sorry. I have principles. I want change in our society and social niceties are getting in the way.
Many of us have, or have had, what in this country is referred to as the “daily grind,” and that does NOT mean delicious coffee. It means the grueling task of waking up before the sun, grabbing a less than nutritious filer to scarf don on the long commute to work, work for 8-12 hours, eat nothing during the long shift because there really is no time, make the commute home, grab some snack with a ton of calories and STILL no nutrition, glance at our families, and fall asleep. And companies want us to go back to that version of normal. Well. No thank you. We have learned that this is not necessary. Many of our jobs can be done remotely, so we can sleep in, eat a decent meal, spend time with our families, and be more productive because the busy work is eliminated. Additionally, we learned that those “low skilled” jobs that nobody wants to pay a living wage for are pretty important, in fact they are now essential. So maybe, JUST MAYBE, we should, oh I don’t know, GIVE THEM A LIVING WAGE??? If the minimum wage kept up with the rising cost of living as well as employee productivity It would be over $20 an hour.
This last year we have come to the realization that healthcare is not a luxury. How can I say this? Well, over 300,000 of us have died from the virus so far in the US alone, and now we get a free vaccine. Why not free insulin or blood pressure medication or psych meds? They are also necessary to survive. Well, because healthcare is not a right here. What else… oh, childcare. All those essential employees need someone to watch their kids. Let me tell you something though: paying 33% of your income to childcare is not sustainable. We need free childcare. And the internet. Because it is necessary for work, school, and communication. So fix that along with net neutrality. Finally, phone service. I say this not only because of the previously mentioned reasons but we also need to be mobile.
OKAY, SHUTTING UP
Now, why on EARTH would I say all this in a mental health blog? I say them because each and every one of these things is directly related to mental health. Employees are realizing their value not only as a workforce but as people. We are looking around at all the things we have been told are impossible that are suddenly available, already present in the rest of the world, and we are angry. We see what the old normal gave us and we feel better without it. We want change and have seen proof that it is possible , and we want it. Now. Luckily we are a bunch of survivors, less Mad Max than I was hoping for, but super strong and coming out of the dark, and if we have gained anything this year it has been confidence. So look out, because the feral citizens are going to crawl out vaccinated and take over the country. And we are going to improve society for everyone, no matter what. Be Well!