Matthew Jelalian 01

Matthew Jelalian poses for a portrait in the Daily Herald studio on Friday, March 6, 2015. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald

The summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I went camping with a bunch of church friends for about a week.

We ran around doing dumb kid things and had a lot of fun.

But when they were dropping me off at my house, I noticed there was a car in my driveway that didn’t belong to either of my parents. That car ended up being my bishop’s car.

Walking through the doorway felt like walking through an invisible barrier stripped away all of the good vibes I had over the past week.

My bishop said some last words to my parents and got up and left without saying much to me.

I asked what was up and they told me that my stepdad had cancer.

While I was gone, my doctors-office-hating stepdad felt really sick and left work to go see a doctor.

The doctor checked him out and realized that his blood pressure was tanking due to a hole in his stomach.

By the time I got home, they were waiting for the confirmation tests to come in, but his doctor already said that the tests were going to come back positive. When the tests came back they confirmed what the doctor already told them, my stepdad had stage 4 stomach cancer.

So essentially from that summer until March of the following year, we had a lot of conversations focused around treatment, possibilities for recovering, and what we could do on our end to help him cope.

My stepdad used to be superman. He worked out regularly, ate healthily and was always awake before I was.

But, by the end of the summer, he wasn’t strong enough to start the lawnmower. He couldn’t drink cold drinks, and he started putzing around the house, like a little kid who doesn’t want to go to school, as a stalling tactic to avoid going to chemo.

Between the church fasts, replacing the cauliflower mashed potatoes with real ones with butter, and the dumb reiki practices my mom picked up somewhere, we always had a hope that things would magically get better and we could return to normal.

They almost did for a little while, but then they got worse fast.

Ultimately, he didn’t live to see me graduate high school and now I have to look up house repair questions on YouTube instead of giving him a call.

Things never returned to normal. Not while he was alive and not after he died.

We found new normals instead.

Similarly, there’s now a lot of people who want things to go back to a pre-pandemic normal. I’d argue we’d all like that. The problem is that can’t happen. Not really.

We have to accept the fact that what happens in China can directly affect people in the United States. What happens in Germany matters to those in Costa Rica. What your neighbor does may have a direct effect on you.

We’re more interdependent than we’d like to admit, and we need to own that.

Shutting down businesses affects other people. Refusing to obey health codes affects other people. Hoarding diapers and toilet paper during an emergency affects others.

These things matter.

We should always strive to give people as much freedom as possible so they can live their lives how they want to, but there are clear instances where your choices will negatively impact someone else’s and a line needs to be drawn there.

We also have to accept the fact that we are not nearly as developed as we think we are.

The moral of every man vs nature movie is that people might be able to survive nature, but we can’t beat it. I don’t care if it’s “Jurassic Park,” “Twister” or “Castaway.” Humans might survive, but nature wins.

My friend who was life-flighted to a rehab facility this week after being on a respirator for weeks and weeks and the tens of thousands of people worldwide who have either died or been crippled by this disease are evidence of that lesson as well.

When push comes to shove, we’re all way more vulnerable to things that are outside of our control than we’d like to admit.

No amount of conspiracy documentaries on YouTube or fake messages issued by dudes wearing scrubs changes that.

We also have to recognize that people are willing to do bad things in bad situations if that means they’ll come out on top.

For example, I now know I take the sacrament with people who are openly willing to let other friends of mine die so long as they can pay their bills. I have coworkers who’d rather we take steps to follow Sweden’s example, one that many Swedish officials are regretting, so that they can hang out with their friends again.

These are things that can’t be norms, that can’t be undone.

Even the fact that we could experience a global pandemic is a new idea for everyone.

The coronavirus didn’t break anything. It just showed us the things that were already broken.

We now know what those broken things are, and that means there’s no going back to normal.

It doesn’t matter what color the state’s risk color is. We’ll still be dealing with a new normal.

The old one isn’t coming back.

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