Things I Could Never Go Back To

Things we could never go back to.My 2019 life was so fabulous – fancy Broadway shows followed by drinks at a rooftop bar, vacations in far-away places, traveling to weekend skating competitions for my daughter, yoga in a candle-lit studio, someone cleaning my house…Scrolling through old photos feels like a far-away movie star life. 

But even with our new unfabulous life, COVID-time has been good to us. With older kids and jobs we can do from home, we’ve been perfectly positioned to benefit from our new way of living.

While I would never wish COVID upon our society, I not so jokingly joke that I’m loving COVID-time. It’s not just the nightly family dinners or frequent board games that I can point to. The list of things I don’t think I will manage ever going back to runs pretty deep:

Waking up before 8:00 a.m. and not getting to nap.

I used to live roughly 50 percent of my life in an exhausted trance, performing at semi-capacity, miserable, and sluggish. Sometimes it was because I couldn’t put a good book down the night before, or a kid would wake me up in the middle of the night, or I had to haul my butt to the city for an 8:00 a.m. meeting. Naps were out of the question because by my earliest return home at 6:30 p.m. I had run out of time.

Business travel was especially painful, sometimes rising before dawn to catch a flight, followed by a full day of meetings and dinner. Invariably I would catch something from the person hacking up a lung beside me on the plane ride there and return home with a painful sinus infection rendering me useless for the next three days. No more.

Nine days out of 10, I’m up post 8:00 a.m. bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a full 8.5 hours of sleep, and when I don’t eke out at least eight hours, I find an hour in my schedule to fit in a nap, taking the three steps from my desk to my warm bed.

Au pairs / daytime babysitters.

Yes, we once had a wonderful sitter for a few lucky years, and yes, that was mostly great, but I didn’t love having another person enmeshed in my life, taking care of my kids and using my stuff. And boy, did I hate having to constantly find new sitters because the last ones quit at the very possible worst times, and every time someone super promising was supposed to come over for an interview, they bailed. And I really hated having to face my neighbor when our au pair backed into his BMW. 

Living beyond our means.

In our pre-COVID life, every hour was a new opportunity to bleed money. We were always running on empty (or negative) despite two corporate paychecks. Here’s what we’ve cut: MetroNorth tix, bus tix, getting on a plane (a big one!), gym membership, sleepaway camp (also huge!), so many kids’ activities, birthday parties, restaurants, gas, paying people to take care of our kids, clean, and cook, movies, shows, dry cleaning, work clothes, the hair salon, yet another pair of boots, and so much more. There’s something so cathartic about feeling like we can save for things like house repairs and even college.

Office social events.

Never have I ever enjoyed these, and never will I ever go back. Face time be damned!

Holidays without extended family.

Our extended family members are a plane ride away, and while we made every effort to travel for holidays, we often ended up with just the four of us around the table, feeling a bit lonely. Now, we Zoom with both sets of parents and all the siblings and their families, and it’s always a festive treat. Don’t get me wrong, I really miss seeing my family in person, but why did it never occur that Zoom could bring people together socially before the pandemic?  

Life without a dog.

Our days used to be too busy to fit in walks, so a dog was always a no-go. But like the rest of the world, we got a pandemic puppy! Now I know – life without a dog is an unfulfilled life (for me), and I’m done with that long chapter. 

In-person doctor appointments. 

To think we used to take off work to haul across town, sit in a room with a bunch of sick people waiting for an unspecified amount of time, to get three minutes with a doctor, constrained in our choices by geography. Now I can select my specialists from across the US, they are always on time, and both my husband and I can accompany the kids! 

Entertaining in our house.

Remember when we used to clean and cook all day so people could come over? Remember how we used to ask about dietary restrictions? Now we throw some logs into the fire pit and bring out marshmallows and beer. It’s lovely and easy and fun. 

Being in a crowd without a mask on.

Now that I’m in on this secret that other countries have known for years, I’m a convert. Plus, it warms my face up in the winter.

Pants without elastic waistbands.

I don’t think editorializing on this one is needed, right?
This new way of living has lasted a lot longer than we all thought it would, and I’m hopeful that because it’s dragged on, parts of pandemic life will stick. Companies have given up office space, making it harder to go back to 5 days a week in person. Telemedicine regulations have changed, allowing for phone and video appointments to be billed. Everyone and their mother has a dog. Everyone and their mother uses Zoom. Everyone and their mother has a fire pit. Nobody fits into their pants anymore.

As we move into what may be our final months before a vaccine brings back the freedoms we know, we’ll need to collectively decide what changes are here to stay. Will we plunge into our old lives or retain some of the new?

What will you never go back to?

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Ruth Berkowitz lives in Scarsdale with her husband and two girls (born in 2005 and 2009), a Havanese named Scout (a Corona puppy), and beta fish, Lilly. During the day, Ruth works in marketing at a health insurance start-up. By night, when she's not driving her kids around, she plays tennis and mah jongg, volunteers for various organizations, and updates the family calendar. She immensely enjoys sitting in front of the TV with chamomile tea, an ice cream sundae, and a chewy cookie in hand.


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