When the pandemic first started, I use to dream about post- vaccine life. It mostly consisted of being able to hug my friends and family, and enjoy a meal inside a new restaurant.
I never imagined that the reality would come with so much guilt.
Back in late March, Gabriel and I were lucky enough to get a “missed appointment” dose shot from our local pharmacy (thanks Joe!). At the time, shots were hard to come by in Rhode Island** and technically only 65+, first responders and teachers were eligible. Our group was scheduled to open up in late July. Then, a friend (a savior really) suggested going to the local pharmacy at the end of the day to see if there were any missed vaccine appointments. That because both Pfizer and Moderna came in refrigerated packs, there were doses that could go to waste if not used. We leapt at the chance and ran over, and miraculously got our shots!
Armed and ready to post our #vaccineselfie, I paused.
From the minute I put the phone down, I knew how lucky I am to have gotten this shot (read: how privileged I am.) Thanks for my remote work and flexible boss, I could leave work early and run to the pharmacy to wait in line. That my network of incredible people was the reason I knew about missed appointment shots in the first place.
I made plenty of excuses — that the shots would go to waste otherwise, that we just moved to Providence so didn’t know anyone we could have brought ahead of us. That by showing up, the wonderful staff could go home after a long day of saving life. That other states had already reached 16+ eligibility. But let’s be honest. Those were excuses to make me feel better. The sinking feeling grew and I decided to keep the shot to myself.
The week** after, President Biden announced that eligibility for the vaccine would open up for everyone 16+ on April 16, in just a couple of weeks time.
Relief flooded in. The end of this nightmare was surely near.
Then, I spoke to my aunt in France. She described how hard it was for her 85+ mother in law to get the shot, and how slow the roll out was across Europe. Suddenly, the ache was back. American hegemony strikes again. Yes, the US was on its way to total vaccination, but what about the rest of the world?
Things only escalated from there.
Shortly after our second shot, my dad and I closed an incredible deal that we had been working on for about four years. It was great, wonderful in every sense…until I realized it meant we’d have to travel to the site. In Phoenix. By plane.
I was not ready.
Absolutely no part of me want to resume the 38 weeks out of the year travel schedule that I had pre-pandemic. It turns out that I like being at home. That the thrill of finishing off a minor diy project is similar to trying out the fanciest airport lounge. The compromise my dad and I made was to bring our pod (aka my mom and G) to Phoenix with us. And that we’d get an Airbnb to mimick our home set-up.
With that I dusted off my luggage and packing cubes, googled “how to pack” because that skill definitely disappeared quickly. And soon we, in our double masks, were off.
Two weeks before take off, we started receiving the first calls about immediate family members in India getting positive Covid tests. That quickly segued in news on hospital admittance, families going into lockdown and all hope that India would miss the second wave crushed in a spectacularly devastating fashion. We had already lost my Dadu in December- that should have been the end. But now members that had never left the house were getting infected. My parents classmates were indiscriminately dying. And it keeps getting worse every single day.
I’ve felt guilty many times. The earliest memory was sneaking bananas to our golden retriever, Zach! But vaccine guilt is unparalleled. While the situation in India unfolded, we fielded dozens of phone calls and WhatsApps from concerned family members while on drives through the beautiful Grand Canyon. The juxtaposition not getting lost.
I have no idea what a truly global post-pandemic life will look like. As of today, scientists seem all but certain that the coronavirus will never truly go away. All I know that it has exposed some ugly truths about the inequalities of the world that (hopefully) cannot be ignored.
For now, I’m going to wait anxiously for the next WhatsApp message and try to hug the vaccinated people around me extra tightly.
** the pandemic has skewed my sense of time. It definitely felt like the next week, but honestly could have been the week after. I’m too lazy to fact check.