Re-entry: Like Going Back to Middle School

| by Shannon Williams

After 13 months of mostly working from home, shopping online, and infrequent in-person social interactions, stepping back into the world feels a little bit like going back to middle school. It is awkward and kind of uncomfortable.

I was in a socially-distanced meeting last week. Some in the group were fully vaccinated, most were half vaccinated, and one person had not yet been vaccinated. We all wore our masks for the duration, but there were those awkward moments of do we wear them or not?.

I spoke with a fundraiser recently who had her first in-person solicitation since the pandemic. She shared that she was more anxious than normal and felt like her social skills were grossly lacking. “I just felt out of practice,” she said. I am happy to share that she came away with a generous gift, but she felt like she still has work to do to get her in-person groove back.

In talking with a foundation program officer, she was lamenting an upcoming return to the office. After more than a year working from home, she found she was more productive and really preferred the virtual environment.

I am not a mental health expert, but all of this tells me that going back to in-person anything is going to be an adjustment for us all. The excitement of seeing people, maybe even hugging people will be somewhat tempered by a grief of sorts. We will all mourn, consciously or subconsciously, the behaviors we have learned over the past year+.

There will be anxiety and sadness. At times it may be on the surface and at others buried deep below, but I suspect it will be there for us all.

I encourage us to try to be a little more patient with one another. To exercise a little more kindness. To think about our middle school selves with all our awkwardness and treat one another as that middle schooler needed to be treated—with grace.

I have been drawn to a statement recently: Lead with Love. I am trying to do that a little more each day. I invite you to join me as we slowly re-emerge together.

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