Opinion

Open & Anxious

It’s finally happened.

After 15 months (or more) of varying lockdown stages, Alberta has announced that we’ve hit our targets in COVID cases and vaccination percentages. The result? As of July 1, we can relax most of the public health measures currently in place.

What does this mean?

No more masks. Little to no limits on social gatherings. Events, restaurants, movies, travel, and malls. The list goes on.

I should be happy about this. With a wedding and potential honeymoon coming up, I should be ecstatic! And I am.

But…

With those long-awaited promises comes an equal amount of anxiety and worry. Not because I don’t want it all to happen. Far from it. And I’m not here to comment on whether or not I believe these restrictions, masks, and public health measures were/are necessary. I’ve posted about that before, and I’ve made my opinions clear. I’m not interested in rehashing those arguments. Whether you’re for or against them, I feel like most won’t change their mind at this point either way if they haven’t already. My concern simply comes from whether or not I think I’m mentally prepared to deal with a “normal” world again.

I would really like to believe I am. But the truth is, I’m probably not. And maybe, just maybe, I’m not alone.

I’ve waited patiently and excitedly for things to reopen. For the vaccine rollout to change the course of these lockdowns. And for the world to return to normal (whatever the heck that means). I want to be able to have a beer with friends without worrying if I’m following the bylaws and protocols. I want to be able to shake hands and give friends and family hugs. For someone who doesn’t always crave social events and outings, I find myself absolutely starved for them.

But now, July is ushering in a variety of Canada Day celebrations, followed rapidly by the Calgary Stampede. I find myself thinking of what it would be like to be in a crowd of that size. Do I even remember what it feels like? Would I be able to function? And that’s when it hits me. I’ve spent the last year with such a small bubble of people that I can’t help but cringe at the thought of being surrounded by that kind of crowd. I can barely tolerate the grocery store on some days. That feeling of being claustrophobic. What makes me think I’d survive a festival?? And that’s not the whole of it either.

The lack of requiring people to wear masks is also bound to cause some problems. Sometime recently, I had caught myself criticizing a group of people in front of me who weren’t wearing masks or socially distancing from each other. I scolded myself when I realized, shortly after, that they were characters on a TV show and not real people. Let that sink in for a moment. Masks (like them or not) have been such a big part of our recent lives that I’m awkwardly, and unknowingly, judging fictional TV show characters from the 80s. How’s that for being hardwired?

You can call me crazy if you want to, but this is the reality of our situation. Not everybody is going to react the same way to this reopening. Not everybody is going to be comfortable with this process. And that’s ok. It’s going to take time to readjust. Some may do so quicker than others. And some may never be able to.

Be patient. Be kind. Try to be understanding and support each other. This is an exciting time without a doubt. But while this COVID thing may be at the end of its run, the next few months and years are bound to come with their own set of unique challenges.

We will get through it.

Image Credit: DamaiMikaz

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