As of today, I am considered “fully vaccinated,” and it’s finally safe to go back out into the world again. There are so many things I’m looking forward to: hugging my friends, eating in restaurants, going back to stores. I’m excited, but I’m not going to throw caution to the wind overnight. I’ll be stepping out of my pandemic cocoon gradually.
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled “As the world starts to open up, it’s tough to let go,” Mary Laura Philpott addresses what I’ve been hearing from some of my more introverted friends: not everyone is ready to leave their pandemic bubble. ” I am euphoric. I am bereft. I can’t stop clapping. I am going to vomit. Over the course of the next few weeks in my life, change is coming. If I were to pick a theme word for this month, it would be unstable,” she writes.
I can relate. After a year of only seeing a handful of friends, one on one, what will it feel like to be around people again, especially people I don’t know?
I confess to “cheating” last week, even though I was a couple of days away from full protection: a friend and I went to dinner to celebrate my birthday on the patio of my favorite restaurant. And it was wonderful. Much to my surprise, being around people didn’t feel scary at all. It felt strange for sure. It felt a little like I had been in another country for a year, and now I had come home. But mostly, it just felt normal. And I had no idea until that day that “normal” can feel so joyful.
So while I’m not ready to go to crowded outdoor events or movie theaters, I’m more than ready to resume eating out and going to stores on a regular basis. And while it will probably be a while before I’ll be comfortable with the idea of traveling by train or plane, I’m more than ready to start taking smaller trips closer to home. I’m pretty sure that as I take more and more of those baby steps toward normal, I’ll feel more and more comfortable.
I think it’s important to not give in to the inevitable anxiety that comes with leaving our bubbles. The pandemic has already taken so much from us. Let’s not let it take away the gift that the vaccines have given all of us: a chance to eventually return to everything that was good about our pre-pandemic lives.