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The New Normal

Jess Weihe

As I’m watching the Ventura County State of the County address via Zoom, seated at my kitchen counter, my daughter Ellie’s laughter fills the background. Her teacher must have told a joke. She’s just started class for the day. She and my husband share an office (formerly known as our guest room), which means it’s almost quiet in my kitchen office.

Thursdays are one of the three days my mom helps watch my other daughter, Logan, in the mornings, so she’s off playing with Moe the turtle right now. Glancing at the clock, I weigh what time I need to pick her up. Past 2 p.m. cuts into that precious afternoon nap, but before then means I miss most of the State of the County.

I cleaned the kitchen this morning, and yet, somehow, the counter seems filled with dishes. Tupperware. At least five different cups. Half-filled mugs of now-cold coffee. Two containers of chips. A bowl of Goldfish. Play-Doh. A soda can. A toothbrush. McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, I think. No matter. I’ll clean it again this afternoon. We clean every day.

Earlier today I took a work call in my other office … the dining room. Chatting with my client, we joked about this “new normal.” There’s really nothing normal about it, is there? Which got me thinking about how things were, and how they are now. Everyone is equally more on edge and ready to burst, while also more flexible and more forgiving.

On Zoom calls we joke about showering for each other. Or whether or not we’re wearing sweatpants. Or about the screaming children in the background.

It may not feel normal, but this infusion of real life into our work environments has been fascinating to experience. Prior to COVID-19, everyone had to be “on.” Who you were at home … stayed at home. You put on your “work face” each morning before you left.

Sure, during small talk, you mentioned your families perhaps. Now, not only do I know you have a toddler—I’ve seen your toddler eat a donut while you and I chat about your social media. For some, that may feel like interference in a protected personal space. I find it kind of refreshing.

Read the full column in the Pacific Coast Business Times.