The Great Reopening, the Roaring 20s, the Summer of Love. It’s here. We’re learning to cope with a new reality in the post-Covid era. But...how exactly are we supposed to do that? This week on Thinking Is Cool, we’re figuring it out together.
The Great Reopening, the Roaring 20s, the Summer of Love. It’s here. We’re learning to cope with a new reality in the post-Covid era. But...how exactly are we supposed to do that?
This week on Thinking Is Cool, we’re figuring it out together.
It’s not easy to bounce back from a worldwide pandemic that claimed some 600,000 lives in the United States alone. It’s not simple to reintegrate into society after spending the better part of the last year distanced, both socially and mentally.
It’s incredibly gratifying to find yourself finally bellied up to the bar in a crowded hotspot after months of wishing for that sweet, sweet moment when you order a vodka soda with lime—hell, make it a double. It’s emotional, almost, to see hordes of people young and old filling the streets after months of that desolate reality we all endured when the bulk of traffic on 5th Avenue was Doordash drivers.
We’ve all lived through an unparalleled experience, and now we’re all working through the excitement of coming back, the application of shifted perspectives, the anxiety of typical socialization.
And we need to talk about it. So that’s what we’re doing this week on Thinking Is Cool—considering the ways this last year has changed people, places, and priorities, plus the ways those three interact. Let’s get personal.
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SARAH: “I don't think there's a going back to normal or a new normal. I think we're always changing just a little more drastically some years than others.”
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Hi? Can you hear me? Are you near the door? Like the outside door. The one closest to the street? I can’t hear you. I'll just come meet you on the sidewalk and we can walk in together. Yeah you definitely need to get inside, this episode is about to be amazing.
Hi everyone! I’m a journalist, reformed party girl, and your host Kinsey Grant, and I can guarantee you that, yes, this episode is about to be amazing. Welcome to Thinking Is Cool, the show designed to make your next conversation better than your last, even if you have to scream over the din of a crowded bar to have it.
This is episode 9 of 10 for season 1 of Thinking Is Cool—we’re about to take a short break before we jump back in with season 2 and get even weirder. But so far in this season of Thinking Is Cool, we’ve talked a lot about the future. The future of climate change, the future of social media, the future of capitalism. And in doing that, there’s been an important constant—though the future is often uncertain, it’s marked indelibly by the past.
Well, the very recent past has been the kind of season of life that leaves deep marks, both good and bad. So today, we’re giving ourselves the time and space to recognize how a year of living through a once in a generation kind of event will change our return to what we might consider as normal.
We’re talking, of course, about this Great Reopening. The bounce back from solitude and social distancing to crowded venues and makeouts with strangers. The anxiety, excitement, economic impact, and reality of getting back to those three words we’ve been promised time and again since March 2020: the new normal.
You know the drill if you’ve been here before: First, Thank you to our friends at HMBradley for making this show possible and empowering us to have the best summer ever. Second, my ask isn’t that you like, subscribe, comment, share, yadda yadda yadda. My ask is that you think about what you hear next and continue the conversation with your friends and family.
Now...nothing is off limits. Everything is on the table. Take it anywhere. And remember, thinking is cool. And so are you.
*Roll transition music*
My name’s Rod and I like to party.
If you got that reference, we have the same taste in film. If you didn’t get that reference, it’s from the 2007 cinematic masterpiece Hot Rod. 14 years later, and the sentiment still stands strong. My name is Kinsey, and I like to party.
At least...I used to. My typical weekend back in 2019 was closer to a mini bender than it was a restful reset. There was The Bachelor viewing party on Monday, happy hour every Thursday, dinner and a club Friday night, day drinking in the park or on someone’s roof Saturday, a bar Saturday night, brunch Sunday...all surrounded by loads of people, both friends and strangers.
My life revolved around the things I did outside of my home—working, dining, drinking, dancing. In fact, I did very little within the confines of my apartment for my first three years here in New York aside from those occasional hungover Vampire Diaries binges best served with takeout pad thai and your roommate laying next to you.
Today, I do quite a lot to avoid leaving my one-bedroom apartment. And I blame the pandemic.
I’m writing this episode two days after I got home from a weekend in the Hamptons with my girlfriends. It was, as the story goes, a reintroduction into society. Our first big weekend back—bars and clubs were open, tons of us were packed into a house, masks were off, social norms were questioned.
For the first time in a long time, my life was, ostensibly, back to normal. At least as far as normal was concerned back in 2019. There was little indication this weekend that a pandemic had even happened out east in Montauk. Those Roaring 20s we’ve been talking about online? Very much the case in the real world too, at least in the version of the real world I experienced last weekend.
Why, then, did I spend my first day back in New York holed up in the apartment, unable to gather the strength to do much more than go to Trader Joe’s and take a walk? I wasn’t hungover, at least not physically.
But I most certainly was mentally. I found it far more taxing than I’d anticipated to be around groups of strangers again. To perform the ritual of asking where you’re from, what you do, who you know at the party...it was too much.
Just 72 hours of socializing like the olden days, and I was physically and emotionally spent to the point of needing to lock myself away for a solid day. What happened? Where did that Kinsey from 2019 go? Surely she hasn’t aged so fast that she can’t hang anymore, right?
I made it through a pandemic. My family and friends made it through a pandemic. I have a fantastic job as my own boss. I have so much to be grateful for—the excitement of living in a city that’s by all means imaginable fully back to life. The promise of good years ahead, of friendships that have gone the distance, of love and laughter and light.
And yet...I felt drained by a weekend spent celebrating all those things with some of the people I love most dearly. The Roaring 20s, the Summer of Love...they seem like kinda a lot right now, even for me—someone who has waited for the greenlight to live her life with bated breath for months now.
As Ed Yong put it in his masterful piece about post-pandemic trauma in The Atlantic, “If you’ve been swimming furiously for a year, you don’t expect to finally reach dry land and feel like you’re drowning.”
But if you do, like I do, you’re not alone.
My experience is representative, even if you’re not an aging New York party girl closer to the somethings than the 20s in 20-somethings. We’ve all changed over the last year...and now, we’re facing the realities of trading in our tie-dye loungewear for pants with buttons. Of handing over our air fryers in exchange for overpriced tapas.
These are the real questions my friends and I have been pondering: How do we make these transitions back to something near normal as easy as possible? How do we process the trauma we’ve been through this year without raining on everyone else’s parade? How do we make sure that we take the good and leave the bad from this unparalleled season of life as we move into the next one? What will the world look like as everything starts to reopen for real and for good?
That’s what we’re thinking about today. How places, people, and priorities have shifted in a year we might not always want to remember...but always should. We shouldn’t shy away from talking about how the last couple of weeks have felt both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. It’s not easy to admit when things feel effing weird like that, but...This is the Great Reopening, and it means a lot more than difficulty getting a reservation for 4 people for Friday night. It means changes for each and every one of us.
I want to take the time to recognize how far we’ve come, too. This is a time and cause for celebration in every sense of the word, so let’s take it. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that good feelings are worth holding onto.
So today, let’s talk about the big and small, tangible and intangible, specific and abstract ways that this pandemic has changed us...mostly, I think, for the better. The Summer of Love is in full swing, but so is the Summer of Thinking. Let’s do a little bit of both.
*Roll transition music*
I’m going to tell you about a day in my life that has become incredibly, surprisingly significant. The last time I went to a club and heard a DJ and danced with a stranger. March 13, 2020, to be exact.
I didn’t know the world was ending yet so my friends and I went to a dive bar in the West Village. It was at that dive bar that we met two Australian men and they took us to the very sceney club Paul’s Baby Grand here in New York and paid for our $18 cocktails. Then my roommate and I got 99-cent pizza and blissfully, drunkenly skipped home and went to bed.
And I woke up hungover. A hangover made infinitely worse by the sudden awareness that the world might now actually be ending. That day, my mom made me book a flight home...for two weeks that turned into 10 weeks.
It’s been 16 months since I went to a place like Paul’s. Since I batted my eyelashes at a bouncer in the hopes that would get me out of paying cover. Since I tried to flirt my way into free drinks, justifying my behavior by pointing to the gender wage gap. Since I walked into a crowded bar and felt like I owned the joint.
This memory brings me to the first of what I consider to be the three Ps of reopening—and yes, there are three Ps because I love a good framework on this show. So P No. 1: Place.
For months, we’ve gathered virtually or in small groups or in slightly larger groups but spread out by the six feet we’re all capable of eyeballing these days.
We went from this, which I recorded in the winter of 2020…
*Roll music clip*
...to playing Norah Jones while cooking our 4th bowl of spaghetti this week.
But now, this…
*Roll music clip*
...is something we can do again. Here in New York, most Covid restrictions were lifted on July 1. With the easing of mask mandates, social distancing guidelines, and general paranoia at the idea of close-up gatherings...the places we’ve turned to as pillars of socialization are changing.
The Great Reopening into these Roaring 20s has meant something of a culling for places like bars, restaurants, and venues. At least 1,000 closed in New York by the one-year pandemic anniversary. So who survived and who didn’t?
It’s not a perfect science. Some of my former haunts didn’t make it out alive, despite bustling sidewalks and mile-long waitlists every weekend pre-pandemic. It’s evidence of the gutting this country’s hospitality industry took at the hands of Covid-19.
A patchwork of legislative Band-Aids were handed out over the last 16 months in an effort to keep the lights on—but not all were successful. At the end of the day, it was partially geographic good luck, partially technological capacity, and partially cult followings that helped bars and restaurants stay open.
While we mourn the spots that just couldn’t manage it—RIP to Bubby’s in Meatpacking, Ghost Donkey in Noho, Bar Sardine in the West Village, whichever local haunt you’re thinking of in your neighborhood—we gather our optimism around those that did. And, most certainly, the jobs they’re bringing to some of our country’s best and brightest hospitality cities.
According to the WSJ: New jobs at restaurants, hotels, stores, salons and similar in-person roles accounted for about half of all payroll gains in June, according to the Labor Department. And workers in those industries are seeing larger raises than other employees.
The biggest changes this Great Reopening has wrought, it seems, are the changes that look an awful lot like lessons. Lessons aren’t always easy to learn, but they are good for us.
From all the internet and the restaurateurs most capable of using it have shown me, restaurants are actually poised for quite a moment of opportunity despite what can only be described as the worst year ever to work in hospitality. After a year of blocking and tackling a formidable foe that, quite literally, shut them down...now is the time for this nimble industry to adapt for more longevity.
So what might the reopened restaurant of the future look like, other than being crowded? Some ideas:
At the end of the day, these places that survived—be they neighborhood restaurants or storied comedy clubs or divey jazz bars—will in a lot of ways be our new center of gravity. I mean, after a year of having no fewer than five people to your apartment...or, let’s be honest, having more but more than that but not posting it on your Instagram story...we’re eager to get out. Get anywhere.
I talked about this with my friend and cofounder Josh Kaplan. Here’s part of the conversation.
JOSH: “I think there's something about humanizing things, and a lot of the time throughout the pandemic, I felt like talking to your friends was playing a video game. And you can't look somebody in the eyes and you know how they feel. You can't touch them. You can't hug it. Might as well have been talking to a shot, but at some points and that's fine. But there's still somebody there. I know that. But being back in New York, being back with my friends, seeing more people, business meetings, it humanizes all of it. It's like take a deep breath. The other person's a real human. You're not just playing a video game. And I enjoy that. It reminds me to enjoy the work that I'm doing at the bar, but just to enjoy the bar, whatever I like when I'm talking to the waiter or the waitress or mess around with somebody. And to me, I just think it's great to get to meet and see other human beings. And it's so easy to forget that when you don't leave home, you get deliver food all the time.”
If places—whatever they might look like—reopening means more chances to connect with people in a way that, to borrow Josh’s wording, doesn’t feel like a video game? I don’t care if they’re serving anchovies and chocolate milk...I’m there.
Because that human connection is what matters most. And for a lot of us, human connection has been in short supply.
Now, it’s time I make mention of an important caveat: The Great Reopening is not the beginning of going out for a lot of us. I didn’t sit at home twiddling my thumbs every day from March 15, 2020 to July 1, 2021.
I was not always the perfect pandemic patient. I made mistakes over the last year—close calls with close exposure, big parties that were labeled as small gatherings, the occasional fit of “I’m too tired to care.” I didn’t always take Covid as seriously as I could have or should have every single day, and the guilt haunts me to-date.
Which brings me to the next P of reopening: People. Because people—our anxieties, our excitements, our coping mechanisms, our relationships—they’ve all changed this year. Let’s talk about it.
*Roll transition music*
For most of the last year, I woke up, rolled out of bed, rolled onto my couch, and opened my laptop to start what would often turn into 12-hour days. On good ones, I would carve out time for a midday walk or make plans for the evening to get myself out of the apartment.
But not every day was a good day. In fact, most of them were pretty tough.
That’s something that’s honestly hard for me to say. While I do struggle at times with anxiety, I’ve been lucky to never experience depression. I have every reason to be happy and fulfilled, not the least of which being the fact that I never got Covid, I kept a job, and I don’t have kids to homeschool.
And yet, even I, someone with very few responsibilities and hardships, found myself feeling that creeping sensation of disassociating every now and then during the pandemic. And when I felt it, I felt guilt—others had it so much worse. Only now, given the benefit of time and space, can I recognize that I actually did have the right to feel so down sometimes.
There is no effective barometer for trauma, which makes trauma something that’s pretty easy to ignore conveniently. It’s very difficult to measure because it affects us all differently. But in the last year...it affected us all. We mostly woke up and went about our lives just doing everything remote...instead of coming to terms with the fact that we were living through something deeply traumatic and vastly different from our expectations for those 16 months.
Sure, most of us didn’t, say, get drafted to go to war, but trauma comes in varieties. Sitting on your couch and binge watching Outer Banks was fun for, like, a minute. And then it started to mess with us in a way that’s really hard to put a finger on.
Since March 2020, a lot of us have woken up every day and carried on with what became normal lives. But that normal, no matter how pedestrian it started to feel, changed us irrevocably. It’s not normal for people to live the way we’ve been living. We got used to Zoom happy hours and then maybe small gatherings outside eventually...but that’s not how we’re supposed to be.
Here’s what Ed Yong wrote in The Atlantic recently:
“Even in the more restrictive big-T sense, the pandemic has produced trauma at enormous scale. Millions of COVID-19 long-haulers spent months with debilitating symptoms, and many are still sick. In one study, 30 percent of people with lab-confirmed COVID-19, most of whom had not been hospitalized, were still experiencing symptoms after an average of six months. Many are still struggling with the byzantine world of disability benefits and long-term diagnoses such as myalgic encephalomyelitis. Many Americans who were hospitalized with COVID-19 will still be affected too. At the height of the winter surge, 132,000 people filled U.S. emergency rooms. Based on evidence from Italy and from past coronavirus epidemics, about a third of those people—and the hundreds of thousands more who were hospitalized before and after that moment—will develop PTSD.
At least 580,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and this official tally probably omits hundreds of thousands of uncounted deaths. Because each death leaves an average of nine close relatives bereaved, roughly 5 million Americans have been grieving parents, children, siblings, spouses, or grandparents at a time when funerals, bedside goodbyes, and other rituals of mourning and loss have been disrupted.”
Dealing with that kind of trauma—the kind that impacts so many of us for so long—has manifested in different ways. For a lot of us, that manifestation feels a lot like anxiety, especially anxiety about getting back to doing the things we were barred, at least in theory, from doing for the last year.
A report by the American Psychological Association, published in March 2021, found that almost half of Americans surveyed felt “uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction” after the pandemic.
It’s not going to be easy to return to crowded places with hordes of people. You heard me in the beginning of this episode—I’m spent after one weekend. But that exhaustion is happening in lockstep with unbridled excitement. Josh put it well when he first read this script: it’s a weird combination of feelings.
Here’s one of my best friends, Isabelle, who I spent this Hamptons weekend with.
ISABELLE: “I'm so happy that we're returning to normal. I've been having so much fun and while it's sometimes overwhelming to be in big crowds or crowded places, I've always felt that way. So I'm just feeling really grateful and relieved to be getting back to normal life.”
Getting back to normal life is something we looked forward to for so long. I spent hours every week thinking about what I’d wear the first big night out. And when that first big night came, I hardly felt ready to leave the house.
I think we’ve been made to feel like it isn’t because we’ve simply put too much stock in the idea of this great reopening—a sudden return to normal, a bounceback. What if, in reality, it’s less of a bounce and more of a slow buildup? Wouldn’t that be okay? I think so. We’ve been through a lot...we don’t have to find the new normal right away.
Here’s what a member of our Thinking Is Cool community, Sarah Reynolds, shared with me.
SARAH: “I don't think there's a going back to normal or a new normal. I think we're always changing just a little more drastically some years than others.”
I think Sarah makes an incredible point—we’re always changing. To suggest that this Great Reopening will coincide with some emotional, mental, metaphysical breakthrough feels like we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves.
We changed, yes. But we don’t have to be entirely new people. We just have to recognize that these changes came, at least a little, faster and harder than changes usually come at us. Here’s Sarah again.
SARAH: “I think that quarantine changed everyone I know I'm a lot more comfortable going out in public alone than I was a year ago and just doing things alone in general, there's also a different sort of collective awkward community when I go out because our social skills look so different now. Social distancing, for example, though, I will not miss people standing uncomfortably close to me in line. And yet we all have some sort of common ground to stand on.”
We’re in this together.
Not that you need my permission to feel your feelings at their fullest extent, but I urge you to do just that. Let’s stop for a moment and realize that just because we can keep going business as usual doesn’t mean that we always should. We need to recognize what we’ve been through, and recognize how far we’ve come outside the confines of economic indicators and open signs.
The fact that you’ve made it this far is something to celebrate. You lived through a pandemic. You surely suffered loss of some kind, but you made it. So go celebrate making it. Feel your feelings. Open up to someone. Dance it out. Stop holding back.
Nicholas Christakis, professor of sociology and medicine at Yale University and author of “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live,” told the AP this: “Understandably, people will be very relieved when this is all finally over. People have been cooped one way or another for a very long time,” Christakis says. “We’re going to see people relentlessly seeking out social opportunities in nightclubs and restaurants and bars and sporting events and musical concerts and political rallies. We might see some sexual licentiousness, some loosening of sexual mores.”
Okay so that sounds fun?
But seriously, there’s a reason this season has been billed as the Summer of Love. And perhaps it’ll be even better than the first summer of love...
Alexandra Jones wrote this in The Guardian: “I wonder, though, whether from this emotionally tenderised starting point it might not be easier to connect with others. We’ve all been through something, together. Might it make us more compassionate?”
It might. But...Let’s be honest, though...this could very well be a summer of casual hookups. Shot girl summer? It’s cringey, but it’s real. Because...
Are you gonna say it or should I? I mean we’re all thinking it...Mom and Dad, cover your ears. Many of us are hornier than ever. Many have been touch starved for a year. Many are just looking for something new to do, and that new thing might as well be the cute guy at the end of the bar.
I decided to take this investigation into horniness to the...most honest person I know who’s willing to talk about the realities of dating right now. Here’s my chat with Josh again.
KINSEY: “Let's just jump right into that as the person with whom I am probably closest to is a man and in his 20s and single. Still single, still single.”
JOSH: “So when you said a person, I am closest to you and then you just started chopping an arrow at that category into a very small box. Well, it's still an honor to be at the top of that very short list.”
KINSEY: “I mean, you're still like my best friend, but also you're the person will be the most honest with me about the realities of being single in your 20s as a man. So how are you meeting people?”
JOSH: “How many people the dating hours were fun for? Like, a little bit, but it seems like they've been worse as the summer has progressed. How do you think you might be a new problem? Could be a mirror? I don't think there is, especially for me being away as well. When I got back, there was just like this great influx of like, oh, there's all these conversations to be had, all these people to go meet. And over the past couple of weeks, I think it hasn't gotten busier and just had other parties to go to. Everyone has to prioritize the dating apps, which I think is a good thing. So it's been getting out of that first, not so much now going back to parties and like hanging out with different groups of friends, it feels more natural. And I've met a lot of different people just because everyone wants to go to a bar and meet up with a different group of friends and settle out. So it's like, oh, this friends hanging out with that group. Let's go see what they're up to. And obviously you met somebody.”
KINSEY: “OK, but has that been successful? If the question is how are people getting laid to deal with their horniness after a year of touch deprivation?”
The answer has been redacted for confidential reasons. But I’ll say this: Josh is very much online and his DMs are open.
Now, horny or not, I think the changes that have affected this P—people—are tremendous. It’s been a season of rethinking the relationships that we as people have with one another, whether they’re horny or not. I’ve taken this time to, and I’m putting this bluntly, cut dead weight from my interpersonal relationships.
I think about how much effort I used to put in to fitting in with the popular group at school, at work, wherever. But as I’ve gotten older and lived through a literal pandemic, I’ve come to realize that doing that—changing who you are to win the approval of others who are probably just as insecure as you—it’s a massive waste of time.
So I cut those people from my life. The people I had to change to better mesh with are no longer in my life. And I feel so good about that. My priorities have shifted, and with them...the people I value have, too.
And that, my friends, brings us to the final P of this reopening…after a short break to hear from our sponsor.
*Roll HMB ad*
Shoutout to HMBradley for being the only sponsor I can think of that could follow up the word horniness so seamlessly.
Before the break, I told you our last P of this Great Reopening: Priorities.
Why belabor the point when I could get right to it—priorities have changed almost beyond recognition for a lot of us. For some people, health has become a priority. For others, it’s been friendships and relationships. For a lot of us, family has taken a much needed front seat.
Some of those shifting priorities are small—I haven’t thought about what to wear to work in 16 months because my office is my couch. Some of those shifting priorities are big—I no longer measure my entire self worth based on what I do for a living.
Let’s talk about that for a second, because rethinking our priorities around American work culture is far overdue.
What you’re listening to right now is, technically speaking, work. That’s true. But this is work that’s representative of who I am and how I’ve changed this year. It’s as close to my inner dialogue as it gets. It’s fulfilling, but work hasn’t always been this way for me.
I mean, think about the ways I was your AirPods in March of 2020. The show I was hosting? We doubled our output because people were stuck inside and they wanted things to consume. So like a sheep headed to slaughter, I made more. Not better, but more. It took me over a year to realize how bad of an idea that was.
Before Covid forced me to take a long, hard look in the mirror, I was content to let work eat me alive. It was all I had, all I talked about. But things changed this year. I came to recognize that work isn’t going to always be there for me the way I’d once expected it to. My career means so much to me, but it’s not everything.
What is everything? Spending my time the way that best serves me.
That’s why I’ve come to prioritize downtime so much in this Great Reopening. I’m fully participating in the analog summer—logging off when I don’t feel productive, leaning into breaks that leave me feeling more replenished and aren’t on TikTok, and recognizing that no one else wants to work right now either.
There are certain times I don’t think you should be expected to be a productive member of the labor force: Fridays after 1pm, when you’re falling in love, and when you’ve just survived a tremendous, life-altering pandemic. So steer into it.
Here’s more of that conversation I had with Josh.
JOSH: “Slowing down has been really important. When I was in Miami, I took like an hour for lunch to be with my dad and my grandpa. I don't think I told you that I tend to picture yourself. I'm sorry. That is like an hour off, but it's great. It's such a nice meal of the day. And even today I grabbed lunch. I sat outside for twenty minutes. I ate it. And I don't think that's what I was doing prior to go. But even during covid, the days are just blur together because there was no commute anywhere. And being able to just sit and be in the city is really nice. And for whatever reason, I just don't think I value it like I did until now.”
KINSEY: “Yeah, I completely agree. I mean, in the way that I've written the episode already, one of the shifting priorities is a priority away from work. Like I have talked at length about how I feel like work came to describe way too much of who I am as a person. And I hate that. I don't want that to be my legacy is that I had a job like everybody has a job and want something different to be what defines me. And I think we've done a pretty good job of balancing starting our own business with enjoying the summer, like enjoying slowing down, enjoying taking the time that we need to recharge as much as we can while also doing something that is really, really difficult. Starting something new, like it has been an analog summer on some days and that feels really, really good. It's something that I think making that a priority has been a huge benefit for the work that we've been doing like that. We can be honest with each other and say, I'm not going to get anything done for the rest of the day. And instead of toiling around and making yourself feel worse and staring at a screen, you go out, you have lunch, you sit down, you relax, you take the time. You need to be better the next day.”
JOSH: “But there's an asterisk that might need to be applied, which we might just be maturing to realize that working many hours does not equal the impact. And I think we can still lead a very healthy legacy of the work that we do and a legacy of other things that we do, whether it's family, friends, whatever it might be outside. But we can take the rest of the day out right now and still run a really great business. And I think for whatever reason, we started to realize this, that we just we were so brainwashed. Maybe it is in New York City thing and we just had to leave to understand it, that you can still be really productive without working every single second of your day and you don't have to feel guilty about it.”
Tim Kreider recently wrote this in The Atlantic: “I’ve always loved weekends and summers, those officially sanctioned respites from productivity. This year was like one long Sunday afternoon: society suspended, life on hiatus. It felt like being offstage, or hanging out in the kitchen at a party.”
So let’s not go back to Monday morning right away. Let’s enjoy the feeling of being a little less productive so we can instead have a lot more fun. The email will be there in the morning. Go outside. Go see a concert. Go kiss a stranger. Go introduce yourself without mentioning your job.
And don’t feel guilty about it because now, the only thing at risk is a moral hangover...not your grandparents’ lives.
*Roll transition music*
The Great Reopening of this economy has been forceful—the US added 850,000 jobs in June. The stock market just tallied seven straight days of record highs. Things are looking up.
The Great Reopening for the people who make the economy is a little more complicated. It involves places, people, and priorities, yes...but those things are different for all of us.
I’m ready to party again, to see live music again, to celebrate being young and excited about everything around me. But I’m not going to pretend that nothing has changed over the last year. No matter how eager I might be to go out and meet new people as I record this from the floor of the same apartment I’ve lived, worked, and socialized in for the last 6 months...it’s not going to be like it was. Maybe it’ll be better? Maybe it’ll be worse? I’m not really sure.
But it will be something worth thinking about.
We might not ever get back to normal, whatever normal means.
The person I am today? She’s nothing like that vodka-soda chugging 25-year-old who thought the idea of a pandemic seemed like a bit much. In some ways, I’m worse off—I have a lot more social anxiety, I’ve retreated into myself more than I care to admit...you know the drill.
But in other ways, I’m so much better off. I’m in a happy, healthy relationship with a truly good person who makes me homemade sauerkraut. I spend more time being introspective and prioritizing what matters most. I have a renewed sense of appreciation for the little things like restaurant bread and cold beers on draft at sports bars. And most importantly, I value this life more than I ever have.
Sure, I’m uneasy sometimes. But living through a pandemic—one that so many people didn’t live through—has given me fresh perspective. I am so lucky to be alive. I’m not gonna waste a minute of this life, even if I never really know what it’ll throw at us next.
Usually, I script most of these podcast episodes. I go to great lengths to ensure that the end of each episode feels perfectly complete—I’m deeply controlling when it comes to the words I put in your AirPods. Today, I want to do something different.
The last year has taught me a hard-learned lesson in control. We don’t always have it, and we can’t always wrestle it back into our hands. Control is certainly an advantage at times, but in the last year, ceding control has allowed me to focus on so many other good things: new jobs, new relationships, new priorities. When I gave up on what I thought my 26th year of life would look like and instead learned to be happy with what the world handed me, I became so much more fulfilled, so much more grateful.
I spent most of 2020 trying to wrestle back control in a life that was, for so many of us, uncontrollable. So I’m willingly giving up control today right now. I’ve written in an ad lib right here, and in a few seconds, I’m going to simply riff on what I’m grateful for, what I’m nervous about, and what I anticipate most in this world’s great reopening. 3, 2, 1…
AD LIB HERE FOR 30 SECONDS
Alright...that felt good. [PAUSE]
Rarely can we control the circumstances life hands us. But we can control the ways we respond. As the world gets back to partying, gathering, protesting, all of it—I hope you’ll keep that in mind. It’s scary to do something we haven’t done in a long time. We’ve all lived through an incredibly traumatic year. Things are different.
But our optimism? Our excitement? Our curiosity? Those things don’t ever have to change.
This strange new world of social anxiety has at times had me questioning my entire sense of self. Who am I if not the bubbly, charismatic, flirty 20-something who could go shot for shot with the best of them?
I’m a different person post-pandemic, and I think a lot of us are. To suggest that a once in a lifetime event like a global pandemic and subsequent worldwide shutdown of everything familiar won’t change us? That’s just silly.
I think we all need to take a little time to recognize that we’ve probably changed over the last year. Growing isn’t always easy, and sometimes growth is painful. But it’s necessary, and it’s impossible to avoid this year especially.
I’m excited to take the time to reacquaint myself with...myself. My new priorities. My new interests. My new attitudes.
I know this episode isn’t quite like the last eight of this season have been, but that’s by design. Generation-defining issues that are deserving of conversation, curiosity, and thought provocation come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, they’re the moral argument for or against billionaires like we covered last week or the existence of Facebook like we’ll cover next week.
Sometimes they’re more intangible. Sometimes they’re about the ways we feel. The ways those feelings will inform where we go from here.
Here’s Sarah one more time.
SARAH: “I'm worried about people not applying what they've learned about themselves and the people around them from the past 18 months, and acting as though all of that is suddenly basically irrelevant. I'm excited for small, local businesses that are finally starting to see some more foot traffic. I'm worried about people coping with long-haul COVID being left behind. I'm excited to see my friends and family again. I'm worried that there are so many more people, at least seemingly, talking about going back to normal instead of growing from what we've learned over the last 18 months.”
Remember what you’ve learned. Celebrate your wins, the biggest of which being that you’re here and you’re surely thriving.
We will invariably carry the experiences of the last year with us—this, this Great Reopening, is most certainly a generation-defining moment. These shared triumphs and tribulations will inform how we make decisions, make priorities, and make time. The ways we move forward from 2020 and 2021 will be etched into history books. My hope is that we all come out on the other side more curious, more compassionate, and more considerate.
I hope you’ll think about how you’ve changed this year. What are you happy to take with you as we enter into a new kind of world, one that’s living through a widely celebrated Great Reopening? What are you happy to leave behind?
Give yourself time to ask and answer these kinds of questions. Maybe even journal about it, because inevitably we’ll be back to normal soon and this period of significant change—hopefully for the better—will be harder to remember. Write something down about the ways this year has shaped you, something you can come back to years from now. Think about the future and how it’s been informed by our shared past. Because remember: Thinking is cool, and so are you. I’m Kinsey Grant, and I’ll see you next time.