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For the first time in over a year, normality is finally visible on the horizon. With the recent relaxation of the mask mandate, the rising vaccination rates and the influx of Seattle sunshine, the pre-pandemic life we once lived feels closer than ever. Restaurants are filling up, flights are being booked and friends from outside quarantine bubbles are reuniting. This is all good news… right?

While this is a celebratory time, some of us may be feeling a little more wary of returning to a maskless and socially un-distant lifestyle than we were anticipating. As relieved as I am to see the world around me start to recover, part of me feels hesitant to believe that any of it is true.

Last weekend I attended a surprise birthday party with my boyfriend and his friends. There were perhaps 25 people there, all of whom were young, healthy and fully vaccinated. Yet, it felt absolutely terrifying. I had to wonder if it was just a result of my natural introversion and general inability to make small talk with my peers, but there was a certain shock that I felt, unlike any social anxiety I’ve experienced before. 

I later realized that despite my boyfriend’s confidence in everyone’s vaccination and my desire to embrace all of my vaccinated privileges, I have an apprehensiveness that isn’t going to be shaken instantly. I have lost trust in normalcy, and it’s going to take awhile to gain it back. 

For readers who may be feeling similar, here are a few things I’ve been trying to remind myself as I attempt to slowly re-enter a life that is (hopefully) no longer dominated by the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Wear your mask for however long you’d like - Wearing a mask causes absolutely no harm. If you feel inclined to keep it on among your vaccinated friends and family, remember that it’s okay to do so. Don’t let anyone make you feel weird about it. Plus, we spent all that money buying cute patterned ones — why let them go to waste?
  • Communicate with the people around you - If it’s still unclear whether your friends or the people you’re around are fully vaccinated (aka two weeks after their second shot), just ask. We’re going to need to get comfortable asking this question a lot — let’s start practicing now. 
  • Don’t be afraid to express your discomfort - The last thing anyone wants is to feel pressured outside of their COVID comfort zone, or gaslit into thinking that they have no right to still be in pandemic mode. It is okay to still feel uneasy about dining indoors or attending gatherings — don’t let people tell you it’s not.
  • Go easy on yourself - This year has been the absolute worst. We watched the chaos from inside our homes — it’s okay to not feel ready to leave them yet. Listen to your gut and do only what makes you feel safe and comfortable. Readjusting will take time. 
Riis Williams

Washington '22

Riis is a third year undergraduate student in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington. Her passions lie in the promotion of environmental sustainability, health equity and climate change awareness through engaging and uncomplicated journalism. When she's not writing, Riis loves to hike, do ballet and play the piano.
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