After Noori Merchant, 23, got her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, she reached out to her friends to make travel plans for this summer.
“I’m going crazy. Like, I’m going absolutely nuts,” she says. “I don’t want to get to the point in my life where I’m tied down from family, from work, from whatever, and I didn’t make the most of my youth. So I was the one who was like ‘we need to hang out, we need to hang out.”
Her friends told her they needed to get their shots before they could hang out again. So she’s waiting on that. In the meantime, she’s preparing by practicing her dance moves in a skin-flaunting sequinned top with a silver tulle skirt she hasn’t worn in forever in her Washington D.C. home.
“I used to be a much more spontaneous person,“ she says, “but like my friends, the pandemic has made me more cautious. I would have gotten a belly ring by now, but now I’m just scared. But life is too short to not get drunk with your friends, and life is too short to not try to find love. I’m excited to finally meet up with my Tinder and Hinge matches.”
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Aman Khatri, 21, however, was not much of a party person before the pandemic. “I feel like I’m missing something, but I don’t know exactly what I’m missing. I was raised in a conservative Indian family from Atlanta while growing up, and everyone told me I’d be able to party till I puked when I joined college.”
He is in his final year at the University of Berkeley, where he stayed close to campus and attended hybrid classes. After receiving both doses of the vaccine through the University, he has decided that he wants to try to be more social now that he‘s of drinking age. He celebrated his 21st birthday back in November of last year by himself. It was disappointing.
“I sat alone in my dorm and at one in the morning went and bought a six-pack. The cashier didn’t even card me because it was so late, and I looked sad,” he says.
Both Noori and Aman are eager for what comes after a year when the world became very small and quiet.
“I heard Bill Gates on NPR predict that the world will completely return to normal by the end of 2022, and I’m excited to live my life,” he finishes in a rush of words.
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The weather is heating up, the sun is out past 7 p.m., Insta feeds are flooded with “Fauci Ouchie” selfies, and the promise of a post-pandemic summer has Americans frenzied with anticipation like a child on Christmas morning.
“It’s a little bit like a second Roaring 20s,” explains Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist and physician at Yale University. He says after the Covid-19 pandemic, we might see people seeking out more social interactions at nightclubs, bars, music festivals, and sports games, as well as people burning through the money they saved up during the pandemic.
“If you look at what happened when the plagues finally ended, you know, for centuries, people were relieved.”
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Other experts caution that we should take note of the lessons learned in the last Roaring 20s of economic inequality and mental health dislocation. Sarah Lipson, professor of mental health policy at Boston University, says that there have been many difficult trade-offs many people had to make during the pandemic.
“For older populations, when you think about chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease, those are large burdens of disease in older populations. In younger populations, it is mental health that is the largest burden of disease for young people in the United States and worldwide, “ Lipson said in an interview on NPR.
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As excited as he is to party like in the 1920s novel The Great Gatsby, Aman Khatri says it’s not a period of time to which he’d like to return.
“Some people really really suffered during that time. I mean, even Gatsby himself, in the book, he’s not a happy person. So while there’s joy to connect with people again, there’s also a lot of grief and anxiety. And joy and anxiety, I think, are going to kind of co-exist from now on,” he says, scratching his chin.
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