April 4, 2022

Is this the End of the Pandemic? Thoughts from my First Time Out without a Mask Mandate.

Dear friends, I decided to live my life again—in a responsible way.

First of all, I take COVID-19 seriously. I am boosted. And I haven’t tested positive (yet).

But I also noticed that almost everyone around me kind of stopped taking things seriously. At the same time, there are more friends of mine in quarantine after testing positive than at any other point during the pandemic.

It kind of doesn’t make sense to me.

Case numbers are at a record high, but my government (I live in Germany) decided to end mask mandates this week. It seems as if the majority approves these openings. I am not sure, to be honest.

But is it my responsibility to argue against that?

I wrote several articles encouraging people to stay at home, wear their masks, and get their booster shots. I stayed at home, didn’t teach any yoga classes, and dealt with the effects on my mental health.

So, I was not surprised that many of my friends were surprised when I decided to attend a soccer game last weekend.

And it was a weird experience on many levels. It felt strange to be surrounded by 50,000 people, but it was heartwarming to see my friends again.

I realized how much I missed social interaction. I noticed how isolated I felt for two years. And I noticed that I am not the only one who felt this way.

And I am pretty sure that I am not the only one asking himself, “Shall I wear a mask?”

My answer is yes and no at the same time.

In Germany, there is still a mask mandate on public transportation. I am cool with that. But there is no mask mandate in supermarkets anymore.

So, what shall I do? What do you do?

Personally, I feel that it’s a good choice to wear a mask indoors. Especially when I am not able to keep my distance, I still prefer wearing a mask. But I expect others to have a different take on that.

And that’s what I am worried about.

I like the idea that people can decide for themselves again. But we also learned that our actions affect others. I might feel safe without a mask, but I don’t want others to feel unsafe because of me.

What worries me even more is how those who decide to wear masks and those who decide against that will get along with each other.

While adults might be able to hide their judgment toward others, I am already worried about the situation in schools. Will kids make fun of those who decide to wear a mask? Are teachers going to step in when the bullying starts? What are parents going to do about this?

It’s pretty obvious that we are entering the next phase of the pandemic—and it might be the most challenging part.

Is this the end of it? And if yes, how are we going to heal from this?

Many of us got into arguments with friends and loved ones. Some started to question governments and those in power. And not to forget, the pandemic also caused a lot of mental health issues.

I still think that these openings might be a mistake, but who am I to judge that? The majority wants openings, so let’s talk about how to do this in a responsible way.

But what does responsible mean in this context?

Is it okay to have a dinner party and hug our friends when we meet? How do we react when someone doesn’t feel safe about that? How do we express our concerns without ruining every party?

And it goes even further than that.

Are we still friends with those who posted QAnon content? What about those who didn’t believe in COVID-19? And most importantly, are we going to invite friends who decided not to get vaccinated?

I don’t have the answers to all these questions, but I feel that we have to talk about this as a society.

It might also be a good idea to already talk about what to do next fall. Are we willing to go into another lockdown if there is a new variant? How about vaccination mandates?

I feel that we passed the peak of the pandemic, but that doesn’t automatically mean that things are going back to normal anytime soon. It’s safe to say that it will take years to process everything we learned, experienced, and felt within the last two years.

I hope that we can move forward and find ways to reconnect with each other. I hope that we will be able to agree to disagree.

I want to enjoy life again, and I am probably not the only one feeling this way.

But I am also more than willing to discuss how to achieve a smooth transition into something that we want to call normalcy.

How about you?

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