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ANNA SMITH: We’ve all been forced to seek new forms of anchoring during the pandemic

What do you yearn for?

I miss the routines and work uniforms. I even miss small-talk and shaking hands. I feel unmoored. So many of the people I interact with are feeling similarly weary and out of sorts.

In an essay published in The Point magazine, Justin E.H. Smith, a professor of history and philosophy at the University of Paris, made an interesting observation about life in quarantine. Without downplaying the tragedies of the current pandemic, Smith notes "there is liberation in this suspension of more or less everything."

Smith suggests that disruption and isolation have a way of encouraging us to electively reevaluate our lives. He mentions that this can be empowering and generative.

As season four of "The Crown" so vividly portrayed, it’s almost as if we’ve all been thrust like young Princess Diana into a foreign new world without much of a warning. Of course, for many Americans, the pandemic has created deep feelings of alienation and financial difficulties unlike the British royalty’s "champagne problems" (as Taylor Swift crooned in her new album "Evermore").

While we pull our lives back together after the crush of a global health crisis and all that it has left in its wake, we can feel liberated to reevaluate our time, our hobbies and our priorities. Crestfallen, woozy and raw from world events, I am also learning (now even more than ever): We need rituals.

This is one of the most beautiful and meaningful parts of living in a city like Bakersfield, the traditions and rituals, the deeply impactful long-lasting connections. Your neighbors look out for you; even business relationships are rarely robotic. I would argue that self-isolation in a pandemic feels less isolating in a place like ours, where we prioritize carving out the time and space for purposeful experiences and relationships. Before COVID hit, my experience is that residents were no less passionate but certainly less harried and frantic than those I know in big cities.

As humans, we long for traditions, for deeper connections. We naturally lean into comfortable spaces and well-worn places. But let’s not allow our longing to return to life prior to the pandemic and seek comfort wherever we can stop us from pushing for progress; the two are not mutually exclusive. Let’s not allow customs and formality to rule.

Perspective is everything, and we’re offered a golden opportunity to hunch down, crane our necks and peer at life from a different view, however uncomfortable that feels at this moment.

We can see it as a chance to rethink how we were living "B.C." (before COVID). Was the endless wheel of in-person meetings and office-chair work days serving us all and our businesses? Do we support the most vulnerable in ways that matter to them? How have we busied ourselves to distract from really living?

What is it all for, if it doesn’t enrich our lives and make our community stronger for everyone?

As Princess Diana shook up the royal rituals and traditions (in a good way), may we use this time to allow ourselves to be a bit unmoored from that which does not bring us joy or serve a greater purpose beyond ourselves.

Anna Smith writes a weekly column about Bakersfield. She can be reached at anna@sagebakersfield.com. The views expressed here are her own.

Coronavirus Cases widget

  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 158,009

  • Deaths: 1,814

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 150,579 

  • Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 92.04

  • Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 92.61