It was without celebration, without fanfare, but the deed is done. My wife Laura and I have received our first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – Pfizer, specifically.
It’s been a few days and aside from some rather annoying soreness in my shoulder, I barely remember I got my shot.
The whole appointment was something of a blur. We walked into Chilliwack Mall, past a few and found the queue, moving like clockwork thanks in no small part to volunteers from the Fraser Valley Bandits.
It was really no different than getting any other shot. We got our doses, waited the requisite 15 minutes following the shot in an observation area and that was that. I joked with my wife that for as much as the government loves their surveys, I was certain we’d receive a “how did we do” email or something. I was kidding, but it turns out I was mostly right – they had cards ready for us in the observation room.
It was remarkable how unremarkable the experience was. For as much chaos as the pandemic caused, I expected a bit more pomp and circumstance as it’s slowly shuffling out into the void, never to be heard from again. And maybe that celebratory noise is yet to come, but on that day, there was polite, clinical conversation, a shot, and that step was over. Onto the next in a number of weeks.
If we’re honest with ourselves, I imagine many of us are wrestling with different emotions as we look on to normal life on the not-too-distant horizon. Are we going to miss this pandemic? No, it’s not that simple; I say good riddance to the virus that killed millions across the world and scarred the living days of so many more.
There’s a feeling of not being ready for the changes yet to come, which is completely normal. We are creatures of habit and status quo. Once the pandemic is over, it will take some time to adjust to everyday life as we know it again. There are sensations and sensibilities we’ve all taken for granted in the past year and a few months. We’ll have to get used to face-to-face interaction again. We’ll have to be ready to forgive faux pas and not being at our best for some time moving forward. If we can stamp out a worldwide pandemic together, I reckon we can weather this task.
Yet, even as we tackle that adjustment phase day by day, there’s something beneath it that I didn’t expect to experience. There’s a small sorrow, a feeling of subtle nostalgia when emerging from a crisis I don’t think any of us are really ready to face. We had a shared, worldwide connection in the pandemic which is starting to fade into the foggy past. We really are all in this together, not a single one of us was exempt from going through it, but for how much longer?
What happens to us, though, when the illness-borne ties that bind slowly start to unravel? When we go back to normal, will we lose that subconscious empathy of looking out for complete strangers? Will we be able to view those with opposing viewpoints on the pandemic the same way, ever again? How will we treat each other from here?
The only answer I have for that is the three words I really don’t like saying as a journalist – I don’t know. In an ideal world, this shared empathy will be remembered and continued to honour those who fought against COVID-19 and those who died from it.
We live in reality, though, and the ideal is rarely achieved. Still, I think those of us who live beyond COVID-19’s passing will largely come away from it better than before. It’s my hope that what we take away from this is a truer sense of what it means to love thy neighbour. We’re not going to get it right every time, but what’s the harm in trying?
We can foster a life of growth and love as the pandemic fades and we rebuild, but it all leans on what we decide to do as individuals. I hope you and I make the right choices.