It almost feels embarrassing getting COVID this late. It’s May of 2022 and after over two years of countless close calls and numerous exposures, it finally happened for me. Somehow I avoided COVID so well, but now here I am, sitting in bed for the fourth day, cursing about my symptoms, wondering if they will ever go away and if I will ever get to speak to my housemates again. A little bit dramatic, but you get the point.
I feel defeated — I thought I was going to exit this pandemic as a survivor, being able to flex that I never fell to the virus, despite how many times it seemed like I was going to. I was safe; I still am, yet somehow, I still tested positive. Getting COVID this late says nothing about your morals or your COVID safety levels; it feels almost random. I mean, it is random. It’s unlucky truly.
However, in addition to mentally accepting that I have gotten COVID this late, as people have chosen to pretend COVID no longer exists, it’s been hard to figure out what to do. When I first found out that I was exposed directly through someone I lived with, I thought I still had to quarantine. I told my parents, upset I would no longer be able to go home for Mother’s Day, attend a Lorde concert in SF two days later, or go see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness later that week. I was stressed because I had an in-person midterm coming up and I wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to take it. My parents informed me that there were new rules and regulations and that if you were exposed you no longer had to quarantine, just wear a mask (unless you get symptoms). This was hard to wrap my head around and honestly, made me a bit uncomfortable to think about going on with my normal day-to-day life when there was such a high chance I had COVID. I decided not to go to the concert.
The morning of the concert, I took a rapid test as I had picked up some symptoms that I was writing off as allergies. Turns out, they were not allergies. My rapid test came back positive in less than ten minutes. From that point on, everything felt like a fever dream. My roommate moved into a different room, some of my other housemates tested positive, and I began to feel the symptoms of a “really bad cold”. After two or three days these symptoms faded a bit, leaving me only congested and extremely fatigued. Today I am finally beginning to feel better and I’m realizing I can soon exit isolation if my antigen test comes back negative after day five (though figuring out when day five is was a mission in itself).
This also feels weird, that I can just enter back into the world — go to work, to class — as long as I wear a mask? I don’t really have a choice though. Life doesn’t stop for COVID anymore. I got a few days’ extension on a paper that I need to turn in early this coming week, but haven’t started because I was sick. During peaks of COVID, people were more lax with excuses and extensions, but now I was stuck emailing professors and TAs for days, while hacking up a storm, waiting for a response. I understand COVID is being treated differently as it is less dangerous than it once was, but it still made me dead to the world for four days, leaving me with a ton of catch-up and confusion.
Oftentimes while I was sick, I even found myself regressing to my old anxieties of feeling a tickle in my throat or an ache in my back and thinking, oh no, I hope it’s not COVID. Well, I have news for myself: it is COVID, and that’s okay. I think back to all the close calls I’ve had, or exposure isolations I’ve experienced in the past. With my current situation of actually testing positive, it feels less serious than the times before when I didn’t even have the virus. I don’t have to isolate for ten or fourteen days this time, just five. I don’t feel as nervous leaving my room to go to the bathroom or make a meal. Testing positive felt like a major feat that I am finally beginning to get over, hopeful that I can reunite with the world soon, as weird as it may feel.