This last year has been terrible in many ways. Quite honestly, I never expected to live through anything like that. And I never expected to survive it.
The truly terrible thing about the Cov-SARS-2 virus (hereafter known as COVID or the coronavirus) is not that it is deadly or causes severe sickness in some situations. That’s regrettable, but it’s manageable. We know how to deal with that. The problem is that, by its very nature, it strikes right at the social meat of the world. Almost overnight, people became afraid to touch, afraid to come close to each other, afraid to even look at each other in some situations. If you encountered someone in the street, even wearing a mask, you’d give them a wide berth. People became distrustful of each other, because everyone you saw personally could be a carrier – or, even worse, you could be a carrier.
And not only did the social distancing and PPE requirements strike at the social meat of the world, the fact that people didn’t even agree on whether it was a problem, and how much so, was an issue. So some people refused to wear masks, and people who fell on different sides of that debate became enemies. For the purpose of this discussion, I don’t even care who’s right. The fact is that people started going at each others’ throats. Quite frankly, if you wanted to come up with a more effective way of turning people against each other, I can’t think of one.
Personally, I’m kind of an introvert, so it bothered me less than many. But it bothered me. I tried to be strong, I tried to be supportive, I was probably even annoyingly cheerful about it. But it took its toll. I was just affected by it as everyone else – there’s a silent, semi-deadly killer lurking behind the masks of every person I encountered, and will this be the day where I get sick and maybe die? Maybe I’m comfortable with social distancing by nature, but that took a toll on even me.
Now the crisis is over, at least for me. I am fully vaccinated. I don’t have to wear a mask many places if I don’t want to, I don’t have to be looking around every corner to protect myself from a silent killer, I can go places and do things and not worry. and, to be quite frank, I have rarely felt as emotionally fragile as I do now.
Crises do an interesting thing to people. While the crisis is going on, it’s really easy to push everything aside. You are focused, you are paying attention, you are doing what you can to help yourself and everyone you might care about get through it as unscathed as possible. It could be a global pandemic, but it could be a hurricane, or a tornado, or a fire, or a myriad other things. While the crisis is occurring, you push all of it aside.
But it will come due. It always comes due.
The crisis ends, and all the stuff you pushed aside comes to the fore. I was scared. I would never have admitted it at the time because it wouldn’t have done any good, but I can admit it now. I didn’t particularly want to get COVID and die in the way that people who get COVID die. It was kind of traumatic going into the grocery store and seeing everyone glancing furtively at each other, wearing masks, trying their hardest to just get in and get out. Seeing those lines of socially distanced people waiting to get into the grocery store hurt. It was one of the most scary times of my life, and just because the crisis is pretty much over for me doesn’t mean it was any less scary.
I don’t have any children, but if I had one, what would I tell them? For about a year, I saw the best and worst humanity had to offer (and in many cases, the worst thought they were the best and the best thought they were the worst). I saw society literally shut down. I saw people scared of their neighbor, scared of their friend, scared of their loved ones. I saw society reorder and reorganize itself in ways we still don’t fully comprehend. I saw a lot of fear, and not a whole lot of love.
I saw what happens when society collapses. Thankfully, not a full collapse, but it was a collapse nonetheless.
This is not something you can just turn off. I saw things I will be processing for quite a while. The crisis may be over for me, but what I saw, what I experienced, still hurts. And it will for quite a while. Watching the world turn against itself is something that will always leave a mark.