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Nervous About Taking Your Mask Off? You’re Not Alone

Last week, the CDC rolled out new guidelines for mask-wearing and social distancing for those that are fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated are now permitted to resume activities that they did before the pandemic, including gathering with people outside of their homes, eating at restaurants, and attending crowded events. Fully vaccinated folks are allowed to do these activities without wearing masks or physically distancing themselves as long as there are no federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial rules or regulations stating otherwise.

To many people, these new, looser regulations came as a shock. For the past year, we’ve been encouraged to cover up our nose and mouth everywhere we go, sanitize every object we touch, and keep our distance from others. This has been drilled into us so intensely that for many, it’s become second nature. Whenever I leave the house, I always make sure I have my mask on hand. It’s been as essential as remembering to take my phone, wallet, and house key with me when I go out. When I go on walks around my neighborhood and see someone walking on the same path as me, it’s become instinctual for me to cross the street to prevent us from coming too close. The idea of going out without a mask seems as odd to me as wearing a mask did before March 2020. 

I’ll admit, as an avid mask-wearer, whenever I saw people without masks in large groups on social media or in public, I became overwhelmingly irritated. Now, when I see people in public without masks on, I still feel that twinge of anger in my chest, but it's somehow different. If they’re vaccinated, I guess they’re not doing anything wrong, I think to myself. But why do I feel so uncomfortable?
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I’ve gotten so used to the so-called “new normal” of keeping distance and masking up, that it’s become my normal normal. Even though I’m personally fully vaccinated, the idea of attending a concert or crowded party seems overwhelming. Suddenly, I’m receiving invitations to do things with friends, invitations I haven’t received in over a year. More and more of my loved ones are eating at restaurants indoors and socializing freely, leaving me to feel like the crazy one.

If you’re vaccinated but still nervous to take off your mask and get back to life “as usual”: you aren’t crazy. We’ve spent the past year transitioning to an entirely different lifestyle than what we were used to. And naturally, most of us have gotten into somewhat familiar routines and have developed habits to help cope with our strange situations. Your transition back to the life you once lived may be slow and dare I say, painful. Breaking any kind of habit is bound to come with a level of discomfort. But it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

So if your friends are nagging you to go to a party with them now that you’re fully vaccinated, know that it’s understandable to have hesitations and decline the invitation. Take things at the pace you need, and know that slowly, but surely, life will feel a little less uncomfortable. 

Madison Huizinga

Washington '23

Madison Huizinga is currently a sophomore at the University of Washington and plans on studying communication. Madison is local to the Seattle area and has lived here her whole life. When Madison isn't writing, she loves dancing with Intrepidus Dance, traveling, cooking, and spending time with her friends and family.
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