Every few days, I have this jolt of a thought come out of nowhere: “Oh, I’m vaccinated.”
After the year we’ve had, it feels surreal. I’m ecstatic about the fact that my friends can come into my apartment without wearing a mask. I had my first indoor dining experience at a dive bar in LA with a friend a few weeks ago – we sat by the open door.
I’ve flown since the pandemic began. The first time was involuntary because I had to jump on a plane the morning my dad had a heart attack.
The second time, voluntarily, as I flew across the Atlantic to Turkey.
And yet, when I went down to LA, after being vaccinated, I drove.
I still make sure I get outdoor seating when I go out to a restaurant.
I still haven’t gone to my favorite bar.
My gym is now letting us work out without our masks if we’re vaccinated, but I will keep mine on.
It’s not that I don’t trust science or my vaccine.
It’s because we’re not “post” pandemic, and the trauma from the last year is very real. I’ve talked about the collective grief we’ve all felt but that means that as things “open up” and people are talking about “back to normal,” it’s normal to feel anxiety. You don’t have to be ready to jump back in. Nor should you be.
I will not list out the data because this article does a good job of it but let’s say it point blank: We’re all experiencing Post-COVID Stress Disorder and I cannot stress this enough, you are experiencing it even if you didn’t experience a loss. A loss of life, a loss of job, a loss of anything. Even if your life, comparatively, is good and you didn’t have any health issues and no one close to you experienced trauma, guess what: You still lived through trauma. So did those close to you.
Are you feeling anxious about going to public places?
Do you feel like your priorities have changed during the pandemic?
Good. That means you’re processing your feelings properly.
We go through changes in our lives as we grow. It’s a natural part of growing and evolving as a person.
What happened during 2020 wasn’t the natural course of growth. It was an unprecedented event for you (unless you were born in the early 1900s).
We’ve seen health crises and pandemics and diseases happen at a distance, in the news.
We know people who’ve gone overseas to help communities through the events but nothing has hit us all at once, suddenly, globally, without giving a shit about borders, the way COVID-19 did.
2020 showed us the best and worst of humanity. The experience brought questions and mistrust to our backyard. It made us reevaluate our relationships with work, our families, our communities, and even our homes. We realized the tiny routines we’ve been taking for granted.
Swinging by a coffee shop.
Grabbing a drink after work.
Hopping on a plane for a long weekend.
The “insignificant” moments that make up our life went under a microscope.
So, we grieved. Collectively.
And now, with the light teasing us at the end of the tunnel, of course we’re apprehensive.
Of course we’re anxious.
Of course, our coping mechanisms have changed.
Of course we have trust issues.
As with any kind of grief and trauma, it’s a personal experience. You can be ready to strip the mask as you walk into your gym tomorrow. You can also be the person who’ll wear masks for the foreseeable future. Both are valid responses.
Your experience and trauma and grief are unique to you, and so will be your recovery and healing.
I, for one, will cheer you on every step of the way without an ounce of shaming you.
This is your life. You made it through one of the hardest years of your life.
How you emerge out of that experience is completely up to you.
And it is valid.