June 4, 2021

Masking post-pandemic Anxiety.

To mask, or not to mask?

That is the question hardly anyone is asking in our post-pandemic anxiety, if we want to get blunt about it.

The city where I live has dropped its mask mandate for those that are fully vaccinated and the change was noticeable overnight.

Stores are full of mask-less people.

Parties and gatherings are picking up, full-swing.

I might be vaccinated, but my anxiety is still alive and well. It requires an immense amount of trust in those around you, to begin to take the steps back toward a semi-normal life. We’re dependent not just on our own choices, but on the choices that others are making.

Trust. That’s a big, big word after a year of isolation.

And so, here I am, sitting in an airport surrounded by other humans traveling around the globe and all I can think about is how this mask that I have on my face is masking more than my nose and mouth. It’s doing more than protecting. It’s masking my anxiety about being in the situation I’m in.

It’s allowing me to sit next to strangers and speak with them again, without running for the nearest corner.

It’s keeping me warm in the cold, ultra-filtered airport and airplane air.

It’s stopping me from logging into my laptop using facial recognition, and I realize, at this moment, how much of our lives out in the world have both changed and unchanged.

I’m getting on an airplane, traveling, again. It’s happened. But one more layer of distance has been added to us as we travel next to each other. Our bubbles are complete as our faces are hidden, our devices are locked, and our conversations are hampered.

Some things change. Some things stay the same.

And with that realization, my anxiety is a little lessened because I know that I’m not the only one with trepidation and nervousness under my mask. The only difference is that now the mask is colorful and visible, and not just in our minds. It’s tangible. We’re taking them on and off, safely. And to break free, we have to actually put ourselves out there—stepping out of the comfort zone, just enough, to feel the tug on our mask strings.

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author: Molly Murphy