I know I am not alone. I know I am not unique. I know I am by far and away a lucky person. I am not trying to garner pity or sympathy. But.
I am tired.
I am frustrated.
I am often sad.
I am anxious.
I am scatterbrained.
I am confused.
I am somber.
I am often angry.
I am all of these things and before March, 2020, I was rarely these things. Life was pretty great. I guess by many measurements life is still great, insofar as my relationships and career goes. But there is this giant sad, void welling within me and I am not always sure how to approach it. Of course I am writing about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier today I was cleaning off a white board in our office conference room. The conference room that we have not used for a meeting since February 28th, 2020. That is 544 days and currently we do not have anything scheduled in there for another 100 days or so. Just cannot do it, too risky. Its literally too risky to see other humans right now, and has been so for approximately 3% of my life. 544 days since we have been “normal” around here. And quite frankly, its starting to really anger and sadden me in a way I cannot describe.
I know there have been a million think pieces about the social isolation and the impact of the pandemic. And I know I am not alone nor unique. I also know that I have had more actual human contact that many of my friends and colleagues. I decided early in the pandemic that I will adhere to all CDC guidelines on masking, distancing, and vaccination because it is the right thing to do and I just honestly want to avoid covid if I can. However, I am an extremely social person so I knew total isolation would deeply damage my personal mental health so I made a number of modifications to my social and professional life to not go crazy. But I think I am at my wits end and I need to commit these feelings to narrative to ensure this feeling does not fade over time and I forget.
You see, I try to let others live their life and I live mine and we leave it at that. Want to ride a motorcycle without a helmet? Seems like a bad idea but it’s not my brain. I feel like we all get one trip around this rock and life is a breath of time between infinity so I just don’t feel I can judge how anyone else lives this short time out. But now we live in a much different world. A world where the decisions by others do have a deep impact on other around them. And it has altered how I look at the world, perhaps forever. During the mid-summer of 2020 I was having a socially distanced beer with a friend and as we talked 10 feet away from each other I said, what I hated the most about this pandemic is we have no horizon anymore. There is no sense of the end of this virus. And this was before I knew about Alpha and Delta variants. We just were not sure when a vaccine would appear and when we could “return to normal”. Now I really have no idea where the horizon is.
There is no horizon because I cannot see when and where this pandemic ends. Are there more variants (seems likely) will the vaccines fade over time (also likely) will I get COVID (seems almost a certainty) what about boosters, will they work, how long? Every moment in this pandemic is met with uncertainty and hope always seems to fade like our immunity. I remember weeping as I watched the first vaccines roll out of the factories, I was overcome with emotion when I felt that first Moderna jab, I took a moment to reflect when I saw the “mask required” signs coming down after the CDC guidance was updated. But then came the whispers, that wave in India? It is going to come here, and we don’t have enough protection to stop it. Not enough vaccines in arms. And they were right. Beginning in July the numbers began to creep up and up and not we are as bad off case wise as we have ever been. Beginning with the unvaccinated and slowly, my vaccinated friends started testing positive. And then, four or five weeks ago I thought it was me. I had a good case of a runny nose and felt horrible. But that has also come and gone. But if feels like COVID is always there. And with no horizon.
544 days into this and it feels we are sliding backward. The mask debates are as impassioned as ever. We are months away from hitting 70% vaccinations in the U.S. and everyone around me seems to getting COVID one by one. And there are no plans without contingencies now. I have concert tickets but who knows if it is smart to use them. Our Florida Consortium was the recipient of an important grant to address Transfer Success but every time we try to schedule a meeting, we are worried the cases will swallow that meeting and chase us back online. I know I am not as effective in my job working in isolation. And I would guess you are not as good at your job either. There is no horizon.
I will admit. I have been to concerts. We took a family trip to Las Vegas. I go and enjoy my favorite bar a few days a week for a pint and some conversation. I seem to get out more than others. But the idea of COVID just hanging, like a heavy cloud is daunting. Recently I have begun really performing poorly on my zoom calls. Like the early days I forget to unmute, I get distracted by other things around me. Its not productive or professional. But I am trying. It’s just hard when there is no horizon. And this makes me angry.
It makes me angry because so many people have not thought about this lack of a horizon once. They have not given it a thought to wear a mask, get vaccinated, or take any mitigation efforts whatsoever. They believe this whole virus is either a hoax or not the emergency it is. They just don’t make excuses, they have little concern for you or others at all. And while some get infected and even die and we read their death stories smugly online, we know the vast majority of these deniers will make it through this crisis validated because they either will not catch the virus or they recovered well. In most cases the haters are going to hate and we really don’t have a recourse against them.
It makes me angry because I don’t have that personal self-indulgence. I just cannot do it. I read the covid reports each day like I am some sort of weather forecaster. Trying to predict if those plane tickets I purchased will allow me to make good on the trip. I move my seat when someone sits too close and seems oblivious to social distancing. I obsess over the latest research and information and look for any small hint of hope that this will end. Yet these folks seem to breeze past the knowledge that 18,000 Floridians are in hospitals right now with a COVID infection and 44,000 Floridians have died. They don’t see the big deal and that scars me. I just don’t understand when others refuse to care for each other. And for a small segment of these people, they are willing to go and disrupt city council and school board meetings with endless rants and conspiracies because just being obstinate is not enough they want to actively resist and put others in harms way. It defies all logic.
It makes me angry because I know even once this is over, I will not forget. I will forever view a packed room as a vehicle for infection and will wince when someone near me coughs. And I am not a germophobe, but I also don’t like being sick. All of this gives me anxiety. And as a new college calendar turns, we find cases rising and my class tonight will have me masked and distanced from my students. A class by name but lacking any of the intimacy of my courses prior to COVID. So, I continue to look on the horizon but hurt when I cannot find it and I am not sure if it will ever be there.
I just want to shake the world back to normal.