A year doesn’t usually feel like a very time. Normally it feels only like a blip or a blur in the grand scheme of things. But I think it’s safe to say most of us felt like 2020-2021 was a decade packed into one year. In some ways it went by much faster than I could have anticipated when were in April of last year, but in other ways, I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime already.
During this last year, I waited and waited for the chance to get vaccinated. There were times when it seemed like it was never going to happen. When the virus got so bad and so widespread that I wondered if the vaccines would work against it when were all able to get one. I stayed in the house, I worked remotely, I didn’t see friends or family, I stopped even doing something as simple as driving through Starbucks or going to Target, all with the hopes that one day I would get vaccinated and be able to do all of those things again.
So here were are…I’ve gotten both vaccines. They’re both fully settled in now. My mom and I celebrated this past weekend by going to 2 of our favorite local wineries…something I hadn’t done since 2019. My anxiety was through the roof as we made the drive out there. I didn’t know what to expect or how I was going to feel. We kept our masks on as long as possible. Taking them off felt extremely wrong but eventually I kind of got used to it. I just kept telling myself we were spread out and the rate of transmission outside is low (and I was vaccinated). Other than ending up in the bathroom with 2 mask less, COVID-deniers, it was a good experience and I’m glad I did it.
A few hours later at home though, I experienced what a lot of people I’ve talked to had…a kind of “COVID/socializing hangover”. Even though a year is a short time, when you’ve programmed yourself for that entire time that you have to stay away from people, that being near them is dangerous, and when you’ve been out of practice simply talking to people face-to-face, it can take a lot of energy out of you to suddenly start doing that again.
I couldn’t wait to go to my room and just sit quietly and read (something I’ve done nearly everyday this past year). It’s interesting that after all this time of waiting, after all the complaining and anger I’ve had about being stuck inside, that here I am, faced with the chance to go out again and the first experience wore me out.
From what I’ve read, I think this is all a normal reaction to what’s happened over the past year. COVID wasn’t just some small thing…a tiny obstacle that had to be overcome. It still hasn’t been overcome which is what makes this sojourn out into the world now a lot different than it was before March 2020. Even though on the surface it seems like we can do all the same things now, we just have to wear a mask, everything is just a little (or a lot) different. Everything is still just a little bit harder than it was before. And for me, everything is taking a lot of relearning.
I’m scared to get back out there again. For the last year, I certainly haven’t forgotten about my disability, but I’ve been able to temporarily put on hold having to deal with a lot of the day-to-day stressors I used to because of it. Obviously trying to avoid getting sick with COVID was a huge burden related to my disability and I felt not just physically but emotionally isolated from everyone because of it. But I didn’t have to worry about finding a parking spot, being questioned about my limp all the time, not being able to get the handicapped stall in the bathroom., or falling. That was one of the few things about this last year that was nice.
This is all going to be a process, I know. I think early on last year I thought this would all go away and the doors would fling open and we’d all go back to “normal”. But even though some of the doors are flinging open, I think it really is going to be adjusting to a new “normal”. Maybe someday we’ll go back to the way things were, if we can finally get a handle on COVID, but I don’t think I’m going to ever fully erase this past year from my mind. I don’t really think I should either. I miss my old life a lot. Almost everyday I wish I could just flip a switch and go back to it. I wish I could make COVID not have ever been a thing.
But I know somewhere in all of this will be a silver lining for those of us who were lucky enough to survive it and not lose anyone to COVID. I think I’m just going to have to endure some social hangovers for a while 🙂