By Samantha Milowitz || Op-Eds Editor
On March 31st I got my first dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. It was something I longed to happen but never quite thought would. Why, just a year ago I was sitting in my home yearning for there to be some cure, some vaccine that would make this apocalyptic period of my life disappear. And now, it’s inside me. It was a day of celebration. My friends and I cheers’d to Pfizer with champagne; we sang out to my COVID vaccine playlist. It was a great day and I was thankful to have had the opportunity to get the vaccine early on, especially considering my age.
With more and more people getting vaccinated each and every day, “normal” life is becoming more realistic again: Now, according to the CDC, vaccinated people can participate in activities without the distancing of six feet or the fear of contracting the virus. The CDC even recently released the decision that vaccinated people can travel, as long as they continue to wear masks in public. It all seems possible again with the vaccine- just in our reach.
But, ever since I got the vaccine I find myself asking the same question:
Am I ready to go back to “normal”?
Of course, I miss life the way it used to be: Walking around without fear of COVID, without fear of infecting my parents, my grandparents. I miss being able to go to my friend’s homes without being afraid or cautious. I miss traveling to unknown places. I miss indoor restaurants and parties and concerts. But after a year of being in this pandemic bubble, I’ve gotten used to being afraid; I’ve gotten used to washing my hands every time I enter my home or holding myself back. I’m a creature of habit, and now that I’ve gotten used to preparing for the worst, it’s going to be hard for me to slide back into “normal” life.
Everyone had different reactions when the pandemic began. Some continued to live their lives as they normally would, some refused to leave their homes, some sold their homes… For me, when the pandemic hit, my walls went up and I became a fearful person who refused to put myself in any situation where I might question my wellbeing. I became a person that researches — about the state of the world, the vaccines, the strains of COVID. I became someone that analyzes every social situation I encounter, identifying all the risk factors of contracting COVID. I became a person that bookmarked the CDC website, and it’s going to be hard for me to transition out of being that person.
I think for some people, once they get that second dose, the shield they put up immediately goes down and they feel safe to interact with life the way they always did. But I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do that. I now view life and interacting with people so much differently than I did before; restaurants and bars are now petri dishes for disease and sickness, and kissing a boy is no longer just kissing the boy but interacting with every single person he has had contact with. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get everything I was told to stay away from during the pandemic out of my head. And I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to return completely to “normal”.
But really, what is “normal”? There are countless Tik-Toks made about how the way we lived our “normal” life before COVID should not have been normal (I still can’t believe I would sometimes not use soap in a public bathroom). “Normal life” is just a phrase we use now to counter the crazy life of the pandemic. But at some point, the life you’re living becomes your “normal”; strange as it sounds, wearing a mask has become my “normal”. Instead of striving to return to a normal way of life, maybe what we should be more focused on is returning to a safer way of life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to a completely parallel life to the one I was living before the pandemic, but I do want to get back to a life where I feel safe again.
Senior Samantha Milowitz is the Op-Eds editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.