Song 01 - Precipice. Click to explore themes and stories relating to this song.

What does ‘normal’ even mean after 2020?

Stories and Remembrances


The first of the themes that emerged from our story collection — which seemed to serve as an apt introduction to this project and a scene-setting for the other themes to follow — was of people coming to grips with what the idea of “normal” meant in 2020. 

People shared about …
(click to continue reading)

their experience of the world coming to a stop, 
their lives and busy schedules slowing way down, 
being overwhelmed by the new pressures of school- and work-from-home,
routines being disrupted,
plans being upended,  
and how what had been normal in the time before was nowhere to be found in 2020. 

When would normal return?
Or would that normal ever return?
And did we even want it to? … 

… because I also heard in people’s stories how in that disruption — that slowed-down state, being forced off of their routines — people had an opportunity to evaluate the previous pace and patterns of their lives. 

Had those patterns accurately reflected what’s important to us?
Was that pace actually getting us to where we want to go in our lives?
Had the old normal really been serving us?

Sure, there were parts of normal that they missed: the coffee dates with friends, the gathering to cheer on their kids’ soccer games, the movie theater outings, the traveling to see family. 

But once they stepped off that treadmill, and looked at the world from a stiller place — a stance that, because they weren’t moving a hundred miles a minute, no longer blurred the sharp edges of the world around them — it became apparent to a lot of people that that world can be a frightening and dangerous place. 

— A novel virus which was a potential threat to literally every human on earth. 
— Economic hardship like some had never faced before.
— A dawning realization that for many, that level of precariousness of existence is what had always defined normal.

Sometimes we don’t realize the mire we’re in until we stand still for a minute.
Sometimes we don’t see other people’s pain until we’ve come to understand it for ourselves.

Sometimes it takes a major disruption of normal to help us see the ways in which normal could be a lot better than it’s been.

Sometimes it requires us getting off the dizzying merry-go-round to see that 

life has always been just this fragile,

and every bit as precarious as we experienced in 2020. It’s just that we’ve developed some pretty sophisticated ways to avoid feeling the vulnerability of that ever-present reality. Comfort can be blinding. 

And as I think about that, I’m coming to an understanding that this reality … 

… places us squarely in line with the magnificent history of the evolution of life itself.

Here’s what I mean:

Every time life has reached forward to evolve into something new, 
it has done so as a response to being thrust into a disruption of the status quo,
into a position of potentially grave danger,
where the breathtaking improbability and impossible beauty of life itself 
comes into stark relief, 
and compels it … 

… to change 
… to stay alive 
… to keep reaching forward
… to create a new existence.

We’re on the precipice. Do you feel it?

Is it terrifying? Yes.
Is it thrilling? Also yes.
Because with eyes toward what’s possible, 
arms and hearts open wide to one another, 
this is how we’ll survive. 

It’s how we always have survived.

< click to return to top >


It’s been a weird year
With everything all slowed down
I can see how weird it is
That I’ve never stepped off this merry-go-round
(click to continue reading)

The illusion of moving
Imagined because of the speed
Promised that it would get me there
It never took me to where I need

But at least the path was known
That’s how running in circles goes

This is the year that we found out
We’ve been living on a precipice
We can’t afford to slip
And so we don’t, we don’t look down
We fix our eyes on the sky
Our arms and our hearts open wide
This is how we’ve always survived

Making me dizzy
Suddenly still for a change
And I can see with widened eyes
The precarious landscape of this place

The imminent danger
The fragile existence of life
The catalyst to becoming something new
Like it’s been since the dawn of time

We’re always leaving what came before
And reaching out for something more

This is the year that we found out
We’ve been living on a precipice
We can’t afford to slip
And so we don’t, we don’t look down
We fix our eyes on the sky
Our arms and our hearts open wide
This is how we’ve always survived

We’re not going back to normal
All that came before has died
We know that our path goes forward
This is how we’ve always

words and music by Shannon Curtis
published by Shannon K (ASCAP)
all rights reserved; lyrics reprinted by permission

< click to return to top >


If you have a story to share about how your ‘normal’ was disrupted in 2020, please send it to Jamie at jamie@misfitstars.com.

  • beverly t.
    My normal was disrupted in many ways, but a lot of it was a continuation of major disruption from late 2018 through 2019. I assumed that in 2020, I would get back on the normal path, or a normal I recognized. Y’all, I had actually planned and arranged to return to work “behind the chair”… Continue reading beverly t.
  • laura b.
    What does this all mean for you When you’re yearning Your tiny mind reaching for more In a world that’s screaming “not yet, little one”  In a tiny space Learn your comfort zone One that keeps you safe And holds you back  What happens to those growing minds When they can’t grow Out of these four walls Your momma wants what’s best for you … Continue reading laura b.
  • lisa s.
    2020 was the year of not touching. For some of us who live alone, it wasn’t that much different. Personally I used to get a hug about 3x a year from friends, but I was free to hug my patients on occasion. But knowing hugs were forbidden … was still hard. The thing I miss… Continue reading lisa s.
  • kitty s.
    Virtually everything was disrupted for me in 2020. When the pandemic hit, I was notified that at Brown Harris Stevens we were all working from home. No big deal, I thought – I’ve been working from home off and on for years and it’s totally within my comfort level. Then, come April, I was furloughed.… Continue reading kitty s.
  • jodi i.
    Your song prompted me to think about how my “normal” was disrupted. Surprisingly, not as much as I thought. And — because I’m an eternal optimist — I worked damn hard to make lemonade out of a whole lotta lemons. Yes, I had to cancel vacations — but I rerouted money to purchase an above… Continue reading jodi i.
  • tam s.
    My husband and I had started dancing in 2019 around March and were having mostly a great time learning swing dancing!! I was busy on my 50th Class Reunion Committee and in September 21st 2019 had a fabulous reunion at the California Museum! New Years Eve came and we had a blast dancing and hanging… Continue reading tam s.
  • sheila z.
    I had to isolate due to age and not yet being released by my oncologist. It is so lonely. I missed hugs and kisses from my friends and their kids. It was like i became invisible. The isolation and loneliness added to my pandemic depression. I am a very social person, and we all need… Continue reading sheila z.
  • erica k.
    I’ve never led a ‘normal’ life. Raised in a cult and escaped in 2007; I was hoping to achieve normalcy. Mental/adrenal breakdowns, years of therapy and rehabilitation, three kids and an art degree later, I was almost normal. The youngest child was in kindergarten, I was dancing alone, freely painting at my in-home art studio.… Continue reading erica k.
  • kevin r.
    I had some underlying health issues that made me more susceptible to dying were I to contract the virus. It’s a scary thought to die by having my lungs fill with fluid from scarring or pneumonia, as that was how my father died in intensive care. I had to take special steps to avoid community… Continue reading kevin r.
  • landon r.
    The job that I had had for 6+ years always had a seasonal slowdown over the Christmas and New Years holidays. We were usually fine again by February when work picked up, but 2020 had other plans. With the Covid-19 shutdowns, by March it was obvious that something was wrong, everyone at my job but… Continue reading landon r.
  • becci k.
    2020 brought a lot of changes for my life. By far the biggest change was our exodus from our beloved town. Things got so far off the hook that we could not live there in comfort any longer. I had lived in WA state since 1990 and in Tacoma for the last 11 years. My… Continue reading becci k.
  • jodi c.
    To begin with, my son was hospitalized at the beginning of the pandemic and we couldn’t get inside to see him or know what was happening with him. While that was happening I was trying to teach English as a second language to my 61 intensive students who normally are with me five days a… Continue reading jodi c.
  • heather h.
    So much has changed in all of our lives since the beginning of the pandemic, and still continues to change. I believe most of us have truly struggled to find a new “normal” that resembles what the old one was, and Shannon’s lyrics are so true: all that came before has died. One of the… Continue reading heather h.
  • jamila f.
    The disruption of my normal in 2020 was probably the best thing that could’ve happened. My normal was my lack of presence in my own life and relationships, of being on a constant hamster wheel, of chasing money and being in debt and doing lots of unsatisfying work. I knew my life needed a big… Continue reading jamila f.
  • amy k.
    Before the pandemic, we were a family always on the go. I liked it. I’m more productive when I’m busy. My oldest was in 4 or 5 extracurriculars each week, we had a busy social life, and if we did have a day off, it was filled with getting groceries, doing laundry, cleaning. Rarely, if… Continue reading amy k.
  • kari n.
    I was involved in a lot of things like choirs and theater and creating my music content on YouTube and then Covid hit and everything came to a slamming halt. No music, except singing in my house casually whenever I’m alone. The motivation I once had for making videos slowed and it’s still very hard… Continue reading kari n.
  • kathy w.
    So many things have changed, but the one thing I miss on a daily basis? To smile at strangers and see others’ smiles. It’s such an easy, free way to express yourself, and although I smile through my mask … It’s not the same.
  • sara s.
    A few things … My guy and I don’t live together, and we both live with other people. So we did did not quarantine together. Then I left NYC for California for a few months to be with my brothers when my mom passed away in late April. (Not covid related.) As sad as it… Continue reading sara s.
  • sabine w.
    The last year changed my life in meaningful ways. I had been a substitute teacher for the last ten years and lost all of my jobs when they closed the schools last March. Suddenly, I had a lot of extra time and a ton of anxiety. I started hand feeding the squirrels in my backyard… Continue reading sabine w.
  • amy m.
    The idea of losing half a million citizens to Covid was incomprehensible when the pandemic started a year ago. I remember when our Sanibel vacation ended abruptly, store shelves emptied, every cough brought paralyzed fear and we were left with that sinking feeling of needing to be prepared. But for what? We had no idea… Continue reading amy m.
  • henrietta b.
    Places and people around me have changed in response to events, but my “normal” life did not change significantly. The benefit of being more isolated, mostly introverted, and less involved with the drama of reactivity to events has resulted in more time to do what I love, less stress, greater peace of mind. I have… Continue reading henrietta b.
  • jeremy b.
    2020 taught me so many things! It was rough, but it pushed me into doing the things that scare me the most. I closed my salon after 25 years of being a hairstylist. Doing hair during a pandemic provided clear vision into the things that I was tolerating — people, places, things, beliefs and philosophies.… Continue reading jeremy b.
  • jessica l.
    The choice for us was stay in full self-quarantine to protect my life partner and one of our roommates, or risk them getting Covid and dying. And in the grand scheme of our lives, this year (year and a half maybe) will be a tiny blip on what came before and what comes next. There… Continue reading jessica l.
  • ana f.
    I sold the Stockton Yoga Center in June 2019, retired from Stockton Unified School District, and moved to a live/ work in Emeryville, Tree of Life Yoga.  Tree of Life was my friend’s business for 9 years.  She asked me to take over and I also wanted to be with my family in Berkeley. When… Continue reading ana f.
  • robyne c.
    I wrote this on the hardest day (April 28, 2020): Not all views are clear. Many are distorted and cloudy, especially the view looking INSIDE my window. It’s easy for me to see the beauty in others and the world around me looking OUT my windows but not always the case looking IN. The view… Continue reading robyne c.