Make the Best of the New Normal
The last two years have been unsettled, to say the least. First, COVID-19 turned our professional and personal lives upside down. And just as we were beginning to deal with the long-term changes brought about by the pandemic, the Russians invaded Ukraine. Both the pandemic and invasion have had immediate impacts and will continue to affect our lives for years to come
While these problems are dire and have negatively affected each of us, there are still many things for which we can be thankful. The regulations on social distancing and mask wearing stifled interpersonal relationships and created social and political challenges. In fact, many have had a difficult time adjusting to this new normal. Reestablishing our social networks to concentrate on the people and things that are most important can help us return to some sense of ease and normality.
This concept was discussed in a recent opinion piece in The New York Times that highlighted the limited amount of time we have to spend with family and friends. The piece also discussed the importance of planning how we will use our time to engage in other activities we consider meaningful. The author, Tim Urban, broke down the timing of a lifespan of 90 years. For instance, he calculates that after spending every day with his parents during his first 19 years of life, the day he left for college he had only 350 “remaining parent days total” that he could spend with his folks. Urban, who is now middle age, applies the same math to seeing old friends. During their school years, they spent nearly 1000 days together, but since graduation this has been reduced to about 10 days each decade. He calls this “Depressing Math.”
According to Urban, Depressing Math “reveals a cold truth: While you may not be anywhere near the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life.” The impacts of COVID-19 contributed to the negative side by reducing the number of opportunities to celebrate with family and friends, and by limiting many of our favorite activities.
On a brighter note, Urban encourages us to grasp the positive aspects of Depressing Math. He suggests we use the concept of limited time to make decisions that will allow us to enhance the relationships and experiences that add positive meaning to our lives. He points out the futility of being concerned with the road not traveled and suggests that we concentrate instead on using these concepts to optimize quality time with loved ones and favorite pastimes. It’s all about priorities and decisions, he says — and moving forward.
With all the uncertainty in the world lately, it is important to understand that while we may not get our old lives back, we can shape a more fulfilling future by making conscious decisions to spend more quality time with the people and things most dear to us.
Thomas G. Wilson Jr., DDS
Editor in Chief
From Decisions in Dentistry. May 2022;8(5)5.