By Katherine Wright

Rediscovering an old “that was easy” button — a novelty of the middle-school era — has led me to do some soul-searching on what was “easy” and what no longer is. 

It used to be easy to sneak candy into the movie theater, to snag the last open seat on the bus, to walk in any direction in the grocery store. It was easy to pass someone on the street, to order coffee at the counter, to invite friends over for dinner. We used to keep the windows rolled up in our Uber rides and plan for concerts, shake hands with strangers and blow out candles on our birthday cake.

“That was easy” wasn’t even on our radar for these everyday trivialities. The button was reserved entirely for that obnoxious kid who handed in his science test before anyone else or for “yo momma” jokes or maybe even the dramatic end to a pie-eating contest. 

But our everyday routine was so easy that we didn’t even realize it was something that could be changed or taken away.

And while it certainly wasn’t easy to wake up at the crack of dawn to go to work, school or some other in-person commitment — presumably farther away than the distance from your bed to your desk — it was “easy” in a different way. It was an obligation, an expectation. 

It was “easy” because it was done without thinking twice and without any conception of an alternative. 

As we adapt to an online reality, I’m beginning to forget what daily life used to look like. I genuinely miss waking up early to go to class, dragging myself out of bed to put on jeans and makeup and wait in the ultra-long Starbucks line. I miss wading through crowded classroom hallways and printing out assignments to submit in person and waiting in the freezing cold for the T to arrive. 

Living in the echo of the Easy Button, I know there’s so much to be grateful for and so much to look forward to appreciating for the first time.

I can’t wait to stand in crowded rooms without fear, but with a new sense of appreciation for fellow human beings to replace my former annoyance of my personal space being infringed upon. I can’t wait to feel only a mild sense of grossed-out-ness when someone sneezes on the street, instead of running away in horror to escape the airborne particles. 

Like everyone else, I can’t wait for the everyday “little things,” the things we used to complain about. 

In the meantime, the reverberations of the telltale voice of the “that was easy” button shall haunt me, bouncing off the interiors of my brain until I am back in the coffee shop, mentally complaining about the wait time for my large iced coffee as I stress about making it to class in time. The conception of “everyday easiness” and the value of basic routines will have long escaped me, lost in the normalcy of it all. 

And then, only then, may we push the button.