Two years ago, everything was cancelled. From the NCAA Tournament to the smallest family dinner, we collectively cleared our calendars.
In the weeks that followed, we cancelled calendar items previously etched in stone – birthday parties, vacations, graduations, conferences and conventions. The cliche “new normal” entered our brains, as did the knowledge that, essentially, anything can be cancelled as the term “must do” became obsolete.
Look at us now.
We are living amid the kind of “cancel culture” the pundits aren’t talking about but all of us realize is all around us. Everything that goes on our calendar can just as easily come off it.
Now, every doctor’s appointment, every restaurant reservation, every big group meeting comes with bombarding reminders and confirmations. That’s because, as we see in our daily lives, so many choose to cancel plans along the way.
Unlike the “ghosting” phenomenon of the past decade or so, much of what happens now is legitimate. If there’s a positive test in your house, all plans are off. Shoot, if there’s a positive test in your kid’s classroom, all plans are off. For many, a sore throat is enough to clear at least a couple of days. Who’s going to argue?
During the Omicron outbreak, just about every event was moved into the spring, with the hope for better attendance days ahead. Nobody could think that was a bad idea, even if you disagreed with a reason for optimism.
But in other cases, people back out of plans because, well, they know they can. They have been given societal permission to do so, learning that everything that can be planned can also be cancelled. Calendar juggling has become a lost art for some – they just say “yes” to whatever comes along, cancel the previous commitment, whatever it might be, and move on.
For those of us who sell our time for a living, this has become an occupational hazard. I always used to say “I do what my calendar tells me to do.” It’s not so simple anymore. It’s a constant act of updating the calendar, based on others’ evolving realities, and allocating available time differently, day-by-day, as cancellations present themselves. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just a new culture at work.
Now we know what constitutes the “new normal.” All plans, in work and in life, are now tentative.