Looking Ahead to 2022: A Return to Normal or a New Normal?

dog alone

It is not unusual for our perceptions of events to change over time. At the beginning of 2021, I found myself hoping that 2021 would be better than 2020 but not feeling terribly optimistic that it would. And yet, those of us living in the U.S. did end up with a new president in the White House and a few effective COVID-19 vaccines that became readily available to most who wanted them. At the time I am writing this post (i.e., the beginning of 2022), I am trying hard to feel more optimistic about the coming year. This is not something that comes naturally to me, which is why the effort is needed.

Will 2022 be the year we eventually look back on as the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, or at least the end of much of the day-to-day disruption it has caused for many of us? It could be. I don't expect to see COVID-19 disappear in 2022, but we might finally begin to bring it under control sort of like the flu. People still die from the flu every year, but our effective vaccines do not require most people to significantly restrict their activities. On the other hand, COVID-19 is not really comparable to the flu. Although we are still learning about it, there is some evidence of lasting health complications from even mild cases. The idea that someone could have a mild case today and subsequently experience something like decreased lung volume for the next decade or so remains a concern and puts it in a different category than the flu.

As for whether 2022 will be the year most Americans return to their pre-COVID activities in large numbers, we don't need a crystal ball to predict that; it has already happened. Unfortunately, this is likely part of why new cases and deaths are currently rising again. Our neighbors returned to normal far before it was safe to do so, and we are all paying the price for this. But it does seem like a good bet that 2022 will bring a broader return to normal, at least as long our employers have as much power over us as they seem to do and pandemic fatigue being what it is.

As we look ahead, I expect this "return to normal" will be balanced with a "new normal" that has not fully revealed itself yet. I think that the COVID-19 pandemic has been transformative in the sense that there will be some areas where we won't return to normal. As just one obvious example, our views of contagious illness and vaccination are unlikely to return to pre-COVID norms. Somewhat less obvious, online retail, higher prices, and supply shortages are likely to stick around and may even begin to transform certain industries. Based on everything we have seen so far, from the pandemic itself to the problems it has revealed (e.g., global chip shortages), it seems unrealistic to expect that the experience of buying an automobile will ever be just like it once was.

What Does 2022 Hold for Atheist Revolution?

While it is impossible to say, I have had one thought so far that I'll share. It occurs to me that a big part of what it means to be a freethinker is not allowing oneself to be confined by the usual expectations, norms, or boundaries. I've been giving some thought about how I've fallen short in this area and looking for ways I might progress. I don't like what it feels like to hold back, so I think I'll try to do a bit less of that. There are plenty of times when I stop writing midway through a post, and I think I may push myself to finish and share more of these.

One question that occurred more in 2021 than in any previous year I can recall was "How much longer do you really want to keep this blog going?" I don't have an answer yet, but the fact that the question has surfaced means that this is probably something to see if I can work out. Fortunately, one of the great things about blogging is that there is a vast middle ground between posting on a semi-regular schedule and quitting.

Happy New Year, and here's to a secular 2022!