A New Normal by Alaura Robinson

Kristina Ratcliff scoops meat from a pan into waiting tortillas. She was cooking dinner for her family, a part of their routine which helped maintain a sense of normalcy during the pandemic. Tuesday, April 7, 2020 (Photo by Alaura Robinson)

I wake up at 8 a.m. I log in for work. I put in my hours of labor and end the day at 4:30. I do my homework and chores. I shower. I read, watch TV, and fall asleep. With slight variations, these tasks are the summation of my new normal.

Amidst the monotony of my life during the pandemic, I can’t help but reflect on the absurdity of it all. One day I was a student a few months from graduation, the next I’ve moved home and am unable to have a family dinner at a Chili’s. The seriousness of the situation does not escape me; however, it’s absurdity allows me to cope: I remind myself that “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Sisyphus is known as the man condemned by the gods to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain, wherein he pauses at its summit only to watch the boulder make its descent. He then follows it to the bottom, thus beginning the process once more. This continues for all of eternity.

To some, his punishment may appear horrific: who could imagine such a prisoner sane, much less happy? Albert Camus; however, describes the myth of Sisyphus as one of victory rather than despair. 

He notes that although Sisyphus is condemned to an eternal punishment, he is still the master of his own fate and thoughts. Thus, he triumphs over his punishment. He has equal power to feel despair as he does happiness.

Marcus Ratcliff sands down patches of spackling. He was repairing blemishes to the bathroom wall as part of his renovation project. Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Photo by Alaura Robinson)

I remember Sisyphus during these unexpected adjustments. We are all required to stay home, yet there is joy to be found in our collective new normal–be it logging on to virtual class meetings, working on endless house projects or cooking dinner for the family. 

Although we may not have control over much during this pandemic, we remain autonomous over our thoughts. In the midst of our monotony, one must imagine us happy.

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