I think my experience of this pandemic is different from almost everyone in this world.
When the world was shutting down last year at the outbreak, my world in Sweden stayed the same. I could walk and run and go out as I pleased.
Parents took their kids to the parks (which I thought was stupid, and it made me uncomfortable to look at). But it happened…and still does (sans masks).
The biggest “change” was that there were now large plastic partitions around those who worked at the cash registers at grocery stores, and there were large lines placed on the ground to show how far apart we were supposed to stand.
I only started seeing more people wearing masks, maybe six months ago. There are still far more people who don’t wear one at all.
The impact of COVID-19 didn’t really hit me on a personal level until my dad described going to the grocery store one day last year. He said he wore gloves and a mask and that there were only so many people allowed in the store at once, so people had to wait outside if it had reached its limit. He said that they could only walk one way through the aisles.
There was something about picturing my dad, my papa, in this scenario that broke my heart open and gave me a glimpse into the slightest hint of what this pandemic was like for other people and what it really meant in the world. (Reading news articles also helped with this.)
I’ve felt largely personally unaffected though because not much in my daily life has changed.
My parents tell my sister and I that we’ll remember this time for our whole lives and that we’ll tell our grandchildren one day.
The story I’ll tell will be so different from anyone else I know.
I haven’t really been unaffected. My world has not been untouched. I’ve felt it.
Last year, even when my mom was here, I couldn’t hug her. I’m young and healthy and I worried that I could be a carrier without realizing it, so I’d hug my mom’s shins while she lay in bed, instead of lying beside her like I sometimes like to. I “broke the rules” and hugged her a couple of times…but it made me feel uncomfortable and like I was doing something “wrong.”
I love to hug. It shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. And it definitely shouldn’t feel wrong.
I saw a man at the grocery store last week. He was older. He was wearing a mask. As I was bagging my groceries, I watched him bag his. I looked at his hand to see if he was wearing a wedding ring. He wasn’t.
I wondered if he felt lonely, if he had someone to go home to or talk to. I imagined and felt into what this pandemic could mean to him, could feel like for him.
I hoped he didn’t feel alone.
I wish no one ever felt lonely or alone.
I look at little kids playing, looking at me in my mask, and wonder what they’ll remember from this. What will life really be like after it?
I’ve been thinking about everywhere I traveled with my boyfriend the last time I was in India—to the beautiful cities and temples and I wonder when those places will open. And I think about how I never questioned how they’d always be open.
I wonder, at times, when I’ll walk down a sidewalk or street and not be thinking about ensuring I keep enough space, enough distance between myself and the people around me, making sure I don’t touch anyone accidentally.
Who could have known life would go like this? How this last year and a half could have happened?
The entire world has felt it.
We’re still living it and feeling it.
We all may not have experienced this time in the same ways, but we’ve all been touched, moved, changed by this pandemic. We’ve all been living in all sorts of uncertainty. We’ve been forced to live in a space of the unknown. We’ve had our lives altered, and we’ve had to adapt.
And the truth is, there’s still so much we don’t know.
And, mostly, I’ve come to be okay with this.
Still, I’m looking forward to being with those I love.
And to giving them a big old beautiful hug.