Today has been hailed Victoria's Freedom Day.
It's the day that Victorians transition to a "vaccinated economy", where nearly everyone going to work, or a bar, restaurant, cafe, gym, wedding or funeral - will have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine.
In Victoria, we have become conditioned to snapping in and out of lockdowns. In Ballarat, we had eight. It's made us cautious around planning anything that may change at the last minute. But the key difference this time is that most have had the jab and it feels like we won't go back.
Melbournians were rejoicing the end of lockdowns at midnight, with many visiting hairdressers and other venues for the first time. It's a great feeling.
In regional Victoria, the highlight for us is being able to visit family and friends in their homes for the first time in five months, with up to 10 people now allowed indoors.
This improved socialisation will be an important step towards rebuilding the mental health of Victorians, young and old, that has taken a massive hit during some of the world's toughest lockdowns. The isolation has been particularly hard for the elderly and new parents.
But despite the dreaded isolation of lockdowns, it has made some families realise how good life actually can be when we are no longer the rat in the wheel.
As a parent of two young children, weekends in our household pre-COVID were an endless cycle of swimming lessons and activities, visits to and from grandparents, play-dates and birthday parties.
During lockdown, we had to get back to basics. In the winter, the kids discovered the joys of splashing in muddy puddles. In spring, we've enjoyed the sunshine in our backyard while playing totum tennis (one of the brilliant Kmart activities we bought to keep the kids amused in lockdown). The kids could spend all day in dress-ups, with no rush to go or be anywhere by a certain time.
It is this feeling that some parents will miss about life during the COVID pandemic. We may not get to experience another time like it. And many won't return to the chaotic lifestyle they led before.
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