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Welcome back to normal: everything is fine

A little over 18 months later and the pandemic is still happening. Remember when we were like “oh it’ll be like being grounded for two weeks” and then suddenly it turned into a year? Me too. But life is finally returning back to something that is somewhat normal. We are having classes in person, people are commuting into work, concerts and movie theaters are back up and running. 

 

It’s what we all dreamed of happening for the past year and a half!

 

So why do I feel so anxious?

 

I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way, so know if you’re hesitant about jumping back into life as it was pre-pandemic you aren’t alone. I mean, how do you reprogram yourself not to care about who touched the door handle before you or stop yourself from wondering if that party your friend went to last weekend will turn out to be a super-spreader event? 

 

Even being vaccinated hasn’t stopped intrusive thoughts from arising. Going back into the dining hall was a huge culture shock. Having to fight for seats in Sherman because of how crowded it is took me back to my freshman year, when there was only mono to worry about. It creeps up on you then, this anxious feeling, not knowing if the person sitting behind you could be spreading it to you. It’s especially hard in the dining hall, after being told for a year you shouldn’t be crowded indoors without a mask on, and yet here we are eating every day at 6:30 p.m. like none of that was ever said.  

 

Do you remember what the dining hall was last year? It was a ghost town. Only the brave ate inside and that wasn’t until restrictions had been lifted. Initially, we weren’t even allowed to eat inside. And that was only a year ago. That is absolutely mind-blowing to think about how we’ve done a complete 180. 

 

Then there’s the problem of everyone else being so eager to return to normal but you’re still hesitant. You feel like you’re being pushed towards normal against your will but you have to move with the current otherwise you’re left alone. You want to get dinner with your friends but, oh no, one of them just came back from a wedding. Or you want to go to that party, but it’s indoors and there are going to be more than 20 people there. 

 

The real conundrum is that I have the desire to do all the normal things: socialize, have fun, all that jazz. I’m just skeptical over whether we should be having all these normal things when we are far from out of the woods with COVID-19. I don’t think I could thoroughly enjoy a movie without feeling anxious about my next test result from the Broad Institute. And I can’t help but feel guilty for having gone to a wedding and then worry about potentially spreading it to my friends. 

 

In theory, I want to do all of these things again, but then I remember what is still going on and the risk factor suddenly diminishes the joy I used to find in doing social things. Like, for example, I am so excited to race again. But the idea of being in a race with over 50 girls packed onto the starting line and then breathing on each other for a 6k is terrifying to me. I don’t know where any of those girls have been and I just have to trust that I’ll be okay.

 

It does make me happy to see the campus come back to life; it really reminds me of freshman year. In one way, it makes me a little sad to think of all we missed out on, and in another, I’m also a bit jealous of there being a time when you didn’t have to worry about the pandemic and could just enjoy the company of others.   

 

I’m trying though, to put myself back out there. I go to Sherman every night and pretend like it isn’t bothering me. I go to class in person and make sure I sit on the ends. That way I reduce the chances of someone sitting next to me. I go for runs with my team, but I still can’t commit to running in a large group. It’ll be a process for sure, getting back to normal. But hopefully one day this hesitance will be gone and everything will be fine. 

 

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