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Welcome to the Recovery Issue of the Highlight

In extraordinary times, we ask: What does it truly mean to recover?

Adam Simpson for Vox

If you think too hard about a word for too long, it can start to lose all meaning. “Spoon” and “parking,” for example, are reduced to gibberish after a few dozen silent repetitions.

When it comes to a word like “recovery,” the absurdity is harder to unhear. To restart something is to quite literally start it again — fair enough. Redoing, reimagining, reloading — all about as straightforward as the English language allows for.

So what is it, then, to recover? That’s the question at the heart of this month’s issue of The Highlight, and it has less to do with syntax than with how the ideas of healing and reparation bear out in reality. It’s a lot more complicated than the straight-line narrative we’re so often promised, especially in this moment when the endgame of “returning to normal” feels about as far away as it ever has — and perhaps isn’t quite as welcome as we might have expected.

Eleanor Cummins writes a tale many readers might be all too familiar with, looking back at the gloriously promised Hot Vax Summer that just straight-up did not happen while Laura Entis examines the palpable dread that has gripped the American workforce right now. She looks at systems of inequity that have long been broken, and why, even as states reopen, there are so many workers who can’t or won’t return to the jobs they’d once put up with.

Emily Stewart explores the meaning of the term “economic recovery” — a phrase thrown around a lot during this phase of the pandemic, but all too often it elides and erases the experiences of many of the people who comprise said economy. What would need to change in America for our economy to truly be reflective of and in service to the folks whose labor it relies on?

Julia Dupuis looks back to the summer before this one, at the wave of protests across the country and the trauma experienced by protestors in its aftermath, long after media attention died down. And Aude White and Alanna Okun have an illustrated essay about healing from an illness that proved to be more stubborn, circuitous, and repetitive than anyone would want.

This all might sound a tad depressing. But there’s hope woven throughout these pieces as well: If recovery doesn’t mean returning to normal, maybe it can mean getting to a place that was even better than the one we left behind.

A woman appears anxious as maskless partygoers gather around her. Agnes Ricart for Vox

The summer that wasn’t

How our Covid-19 backslide taught us there may be no going back to “normal”

By Eleanor Cummins

An illustration showing a briefcase opened to reveal a collection of post-it notes that read “take this job and shove it.” Max Erwin for Vox

When quitting your job feels like the only option

How a potent mix of frustration and optimism led to the Great Resignation.

By Laura Entis

A figure of a man stands small below a large red arrow that points towards the sky. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The sad, predictable limits of America’s “economic recovery”

Officially, the Covid-19 recession lasted just two months. So why are so many still suffering?

By Emily Stewart

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

For protesters, trauma lingers long after the marching ends

How a surge in police force against demonstrators collided with last summer’s protests.

By Julia Dupuis

Aude White for Vox

Healing, a saga

I thought I could check all the boxes and be well again. The universe had other plans.

By Alanna Okun and Aude White

Future Perfect

Our love of orcas is making them miserable


Mud libraries hold the story of the Earth’s climate past — and foretell its future


How to talk to a loved one about their health

View all stories in The Highlight