It’s staggering to think about: Not only are we marking the one-year pandemic anniversary this month, but we’re simultaneously witnessing the world-wide rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine—our first shot (pun intended) at a return to normalcy since the outbreak began. But that’s the tricky part: Is it too soon to fantasize about post-pandemic life? One person we polled says yes. “I can’t even indulge the dreams right now,” she replied. But Tess Brigham, psychotherapist and certified life coach, says optimism (with a bit of realism mixed in) is critical in times like these. “You don’t want to live in ‘fantasyland’ all the time, but it’s healthy to think about the future in a positive and uplifting way,” she explains. “If you constantly worry and fret about what will go wrong, your present life will only feel hopeless.”
But for those who are fantasizing about a brighter tomorrow, what do your fantasies say about you? “Everyone is having a different pandemic experience so what each person is craving is based on what they are lacking during this time,” adds Brigham. “Fantasizing and visualizing right now when you’re still struggling not only helps you feel more hopeful; it also helps you get really clear on what makes you happy and what you need more (and less) of in your life.”
Here, five of the most common (and relatable) post-pandemic fantasies—submitted by friends, colleagues and strangers—and what they mean.
1. “I want to book a babysitter without having to think about getting them a COVID test.”
The Fantasy, Explained: “This person wants ease,” says Brigham. “They are craving even a small detail like booking a babysitter to be simple, straightforward and fearless again.” For parents especially during the pandemic, the to-do lists just to keep the house running are long. And since parents are continually in a position to put their kids needs before their own, COVID has added a new layer. “This person just wants to go out by themselves or with their partner without fearing they’ve dropped the ball or done something wrong that may harm their child,” Brigham adds.
2. “I want my son to be able to hug his grandma…who he hasn’t seen in over a year!”
The Fantasy, Explained: It’s one of the biggest heartbreaks of the pandemic—the separation from family and loved ones in the name of keeping everyone safe. This fantasy in particular is about the need for a deeper connection, not just for ourselves, but for our children, too. But there’s more to it than that. “The pandemic has forced us all to confront death and to recognize that people can be gone without warning,” says Brigham. “This person is focused on wanting to express their love and affection for the people in their lies before it’s too late.”
3. “I want to go on a tropical vacation…but leave my partner at home.”
The Fantasy, Explained: Bottom line: This person needs a break. The pandemic has pushed us to the brink and the only thing we can imagine is a moment when we can finally (finally!) log off, explains Brigham. This fantasy also speaks to the pressure on relationships right now—or anyone we’re living with—during this time. “No matter how much you love your partner, you need some alone time after all this,” Brigham says. “The goal is likely to go somewhere that makes them feel calm and relaxed and centered again without anyone around to ask or demand anything of them.”
4. “I want to sit in a crowded theater or a bar and compete with a stranger for who gets the armrest or for the attention of the bartender again.”
The Fantasy, Explained: It’s the number-one thing so many are dreaming about: A return to the way life was pre-pandemic. In this fantasy, they’ll be so happy, they won’t even complain about the little annoying things other people do or take for granted those small special moments or occasions of our lies we now miss. “In this case, it’s not just about wanting to be in a crowded theater or bar again, it’s about wanting to feel some reassurance that we know what to expect from other people,” Brigham says. “The way we interact with others when we’re out of the house is so different now, which makes the thought of an armrest hog feel like, ‘Ahhh I know this, I’ve been here before.’”
5. “I want to check into a spa with my closest friends and just, well, cry.”
The Fantasy, Explained: Again, the toll of the pandemic on our mental health runs deep. This person just wants to be taken care of and is tired of caring for others, Brigham says. “They’ve hit max capacity and have nothing left to give,” she adds. A fantasy like this speaks to the emotional labor we’re all taking on during this time. “It’s about needing someone else to hold our feelings and our emotions, even just for a day.”