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You Can’t Mute People in Real Life

May 27, 2021

UNICEF USA Community Engagement Intern Synclaire Warren reflects on coming out of the pandemic and reentering social life and the implications this has on mental health. 

The mirror stares back at me and I can see the way my mouth forms around the word “Hello”. I try again repeating the word, but the next time I say it with less of a smile, worrying I might seem overeager. As bizarre and sad as this may seem, this has been my actual practice as I have slowly emerged into social life. Through my time on zoom, I have taken 10 classes, completed two internships, and counted the number of freckles on my face 7 times.

As I reenter the tangible world, I think of the ironies and absurdities that this virus has interwoven and normalized in my life.

I could have never imagined a setting where I would have to constantly look at my face while I spoke to other people. I have never been so aware of my expressions and mannerisms. I didn’t know that a person could look up that many times while they spoke and I didn’t understand why I felt the need to bop my head around while I waited for someone else to participate because I had forgotten to do the readings for that class. 

Covid has forced so many of us to make our homes multifaceted. My bedroom has served as my classroom, office, sanctuary, and hell all within the past year. Strangely, this inherently intimate setting has now never been more impersonal. As I reenter the tangible world, I think of the ironies and absurdities that this virus has interwoven and normalized in my life. I think of how people who have seen my messy bed and my knotty hair (things that I thought would always be private) consider me a stranger. I think of how even with having a phone that gives me endless access to people, I was still unbearably isolated. I wonder how I can explain to people that I did miss them, but I wasn’t mentally able to reach out to them during the pandemic. 

I expect complexities and social faux pas to occur as I slowly emerge out of my quarantine cocoon. I am worried that my hand will subconsciously search for the volume button while I am sitting at my actual desk and someone is speaking too loudly.

However obviously negative being remote was, there are some major pros to Zoom University and working online. I have discovered the joys of making Mac and cheese while listening to someone speak about intersectional feminism. I loved having a portable classroom and truly making New York my campus. And even as a person who loves getting dressed up, I will remember the times of having the ability to get ready for a meeting in two minutes after waking up fondly. 

I expect complexities and social faux pas to occur as I slowly emerge out of my quarantine cocoon. I am worried that my hand will subconsciously search for the volume button while I am sitting at my actual desk and someone is speaking too loudly. I am nervous that my legs will instinctually arise when they are sick of sitting. All of our experiences during the pandemic have led us to have this newfound perspective and it has given all of us the ability to curate how we interact with the world. 

Here are a few ways to begin resocializing:

  • Joining a club or team 
  • Reaching out to an old friend or new acquaintance for a coffee
  • Make group chats with people in your class or at your job 
  • Using online resources to find events in your area 
  • Check-in with family members