You know what’s more exhausting than a pandemic?
I’ll tell you…
Taking care of someone who’s vulnerable, or a child who can’t get vaccinated yet. That’s more exhausting. Constantly trying to protect them from people who won’t get boosted, or wear a mask, or neither.
That’s more exhausting.
Constantly being told it’s time to get on with your life when you can’t, that’s more exhausting. Being told you’re paranoid or selfish, or a bad parent, for keeping your kids home because it’s the only choice you have. That’s pretty exhausting. The constant deluge from mainstream media, telling us not to panic despite clear evidence to the contrary, that’s exhausting. Having your own mental health, and your child’s, turned against you as a weapon, and used as an excuse to justify the exact opposite of the policies you want, that’s also very exhausting.
Listening to people try to veil their own selfish, petty desires as some broader need to get back to normal, that’s exhausting.
Parents of children under five are not okay right now. Life can’t go back to normal for us. Meanwhile, vaccine trials keep getting extended. First it was August. Then it was December. Then it was January.
Now it’s April.
People with Long Covid are not okay.
Anyone with any sense at all isn’t okay. And it’s not because of the virus. It’s because of all the wishful thinking. It’s because of all the false hope and faux declarations of the pandemic being “over.” It’s having to explain, over and over again, why you can’t go back to the office, why you can’t catch up with someone over coffee. That’s the exhausting part.
Nobody seems to care. They seem to think it’s our fault. Our friends and coworkers are acting like we should just decide, hey, getting vaccinated isn’t that important after all. Our bosses are growing impatient. They’re sending us back to work anyway. When we tell them about our problems, they throw their hands up and say, “Figure it out.”
That’s the message society sends us now:
Deal with it.
Wishful thinking makes our lives unbearable.
Imagine the selfishness it takes for someone to complain about lockdowns and mask mandates, when they never followed them to begin with. Think about the privilege someone shows when they whine about how things “still aren’t back to normal,” when they don’t have any vulnerable children or family to take care of. Consider how spoiled and clueless they sound, when they’re not the ones having to work overtime in hospitals, or work awful jobs that constantly expose them to high amounts of virus.
They don’t get it. They don’t even try.
Life is back to normal for them, more or less. They just can’t stand these minor little inconveniences that remind them we’re still technically in a pandemic. They hate having to stop and consider someone else’s wants and needs for five whole seconds. That’s what isn’t normal for them.
They miss only caring about themselves. They miss the entire world accommodating them and catering to their sense of normal. That’s what upsets them more than anything.
I’m tired of armchair epidemiologists trying to predict the end of the pandemic. I’m tired of all the pseudo-facts, like the idea that you can’t get reinfected, or that kids don’t get as sick, or that viruses mutate to become less deadly. I’m tired of being told I should be happy, because some metric like cases or hospitalizations is slightly less horrifying than it was yesterday. I’m tired of hearing each wave is “the last one.”
It never is.
I’m tired of people ignoring Long Covid.
All of this is wishful thinking. It does nothing but convince everyone to let down their guards. It simply gives tens of millions of selfish, spoiled westerners permission to leave their masks at home and act like entire groups are invisible, that they don’t matter.
Every single time someone predicts the end, or warns us about “fear mongering,” I want to hit them. They’re making our lives infinitely harder. The worst part is they think they’re helping.
All they’re doing is pressuring people to accept their comforting lies. They’re forcing us to take risks we don’t want to. We’re not stupid. We know it’s not about us. It’s not about what we want, or what makes us feel safe and protected. It’s about them.
You can’t force people back to normal.
Things are not normal right now.
We’re not safe.
Let me put things as bluntly as I can…
I don’t care how bad Karen or Todd wants to hang out at Starbucks. I don’t care how much my boss wants schools and universities to go back to in-person instruction. I don’t care about some CEO’s profits, or some corporation’s quarterly earnings. I don’t care if there’s a shortage of smartphones, or fewer cheap plastic toys on the shelves.
I don’t care if life moves a little slower than it did.
Maybe it should for once.
My family matters more than their venti latte. My child’s long term health beats some stranger’s craving for tapas.
If they could go back to normal, and risk getting infected with a deadly debilitating virus over and over, then I would be all for it. I wish they could do that without ruining things for the rest of us.
Unfortunately, we’re all in this together. Even if we don’t want to be. Even if we refuse to acknowledge that.
I wish we weren’t.
I’ll tell you what’s normal.
Everyone keeps throwing around this word “normal.” They keep saying “We’ve gotta get back to normal…”
Well, you know what’s normal?
Wearing a good mask when there’s a vicious virus circulating, that’s normal. Giving people the choice to work or learn from home if they want to, because they care about their health, that’s normal.
Caring about other people, that’s normal. So is acknowledging that maybe you’re not superhuman, and maybe you’re just as vulnerable to this virus as anyone else. That’s normal.
Here’s what isn’t normal:
Declaring a pandemic “over” despite record high hospitalizations and deaths, that’s not normal. Using our collective mental health as an excuse to herd everyone back to cubicles, that’s not normal. Tweeting about how great the economy’s doing while parents of children under five take on the entire world to keep their families safe, and as hospitals and schools splinter under the weight of disease, that’s not normal.
All of this is deeply disturbing behavior. The cheerful indifference we’re showing in the face of mass illness, it chills me.
It doesn’t make me want to contribute to society.
It makes me want to hide.
You’re the reason this never ends.
I’ve got a special message to everyone who keeps whining about when we’re finally going to get back to “normal.” It’s also intended for everyone who keeps publishing op-eds about “super immunity,” and the supposedly devastating impact of lockdowns on mental health.
Please, just shut up.
You know what’s bad for my mental health?
You’re the ones who keep making it worse. You’re the reason why everything’s in tatters. It’s not even the virus.
You think you’re special? You think you’ve committed some great sacrifice, because you begrudgingly wore a mask last winter? You think we owe you some big thanks because you canceled a holiday? I guess you missed the part where everyone else did the exact same thing.
Seriously, grow up.
Some of us have been living in strict lockdown for two years now. Our children have missed out on everything. We’ve given up so much. Meanwhile, you went to clubs and movie theaters while we watched in dismay. You posted selfie after maskless selfie. Every single dinner or party or luncheon you went to added months to our sentence.
If nothing else, it looks like you’ve been the ones living it up, while we paid the price for it, over and over.
And you blame us for “not getting back to normal.”
There’s some irony…
You think it helps to predict the end of the pandemic, to spread false hope and wishful thinking every single time a new variant emerges? It doesn’t. Your comforting lies are exactly what keep extending this purgatory, and making our lives infinitely harder. Honestly, I don’t mind spending all day with my daughter for months on end. What I mind is not being able to take her anywhere, and having to constantly shield her from maskless strangers who think I’m crazy for training her to wear a face mask. What I mind is wondering if I’ll have to eventually quit my job, because my school won’t let me teach online, and won’t require masks or vaccines.
We’re not the ones prolonging this.
If anyone has a right to complain, it’s us. Our quarantine never ends, because you keep deciding the pandemic is “over” and then rushing out to get infected and spread the latest Covid. You laugh at us. You roll your eyes. You tell us to “quit doomsaying and fear mongering.”
You spread misinformation. You take up for podcast bros. You say, “I did my own research.” Then you get sick. You shrug and say, “I guess I was wrong.” Then six weeks later, you do the exact same thing. You never learn. Each time, you add to our stress. You take away another six months of our lives, and you get angry when we point it out.
Please, just stop.
Stop trying to predict the end of the pandemic. Stop trying to make us feel better. Stop saying things like, “That’s extremely unlikely,” and then acting surprised when it happens. Stop trying to drag us back to normal. Stop grandstanding about mental health and the toll of lockdowns. Just shut up and wear your mask, and let us protect our families.
Can you do that?