I’m Vaccinated! So Why Don’t I Feel Safe?
I’m at the Philadelphia International Airport waiting to board a flight to San Francisco, and I’m feeling anxious. Why? There are TOO DAMN MANY PEOPLE waiting to board this flight. Sure, they’re all masked — and most of them are even wearing their masks properly.
Too Many People
But nobody is social distancing. They can’t. The boarding area is packed. There isn’t room for us to spread out.
I shouldn’t care. I’m vaccinated!
According to the CDC, fewer than 6,000 COVID cases have been reported in the 84 million fully vaccinated Americans. That’s an infection rate of 0.007. And none of the few folks who did get COVID became seriously ill or died.
Which means? I’m not going to get COVID. And even if I did, I wouldn’t end up on a ventilator.
So why do I still feel anxious about being surrounded by so many people?
Because I spent months focused on the dangers of COVID, and changing my life in drastic ways so that I wouldn’t get it, and it’s not easy to return to my pre-COVID mindset.
Changing My Ways
For a year, I didn’t spend time with family and friends. I lost the job I loved because I refused to work with the public. I ordered everything in. I never went to stores or restaurants. I never went into buildings at all, except for emergency dental work.
And when I did venture forth, I wore a mask and gave everyone whose path I crossed a wide berth.
But that’s over, right? Now that I’m vaccinated, I don’t need to protect myself by wearing a mask. And yet, I always do. Yes, it’s the law. But it also feels right. In fact, I have to stop myself from doubling them up.
Fried Chicken on a Plane
When I get on the airplane, every seat is taken. Too many people! Too close together! Yikes! We’re all breathing! All at once! This just feels wrong. Not only that but teenager sitting next to me is holding a big box of fried chicken and after the plane takes off, she take off her mask and spends the next forty minutes chowing down.
And when the food is all gone? Her mask stays off. I’m gathering the courage to say something about this to her when her dad leans across the aisle and says to her, “Joy, put your mask back on.”
When she does, I am flooded with relief. Which makes no sense. I’m vaccinated! Even if Joy has COVID, I’m not going to catch it. I know that. But I’m still scared.
I’ve been scared for a good solid year. It’s hard to let that go.
Flying and Anxiety
I love flying. It’s a miracle. To be able to cross the country in just 6 hours is amazing. One of the safest places you can be, statistically speaking, is on an airplane. And yet? For years, I always worried — at least a little — when I flew.
Now I worry a lot. About how many people are breathing around me, and if they’ve got masks on, and whether they’re actually going to keep them on, or take them off for 40 minutes to eat chicken. I tell myself that this stuff no longer matters. I’m vaccinated. I’m perfectly safe. Statistically speaking, my getting COVID on this plane is as unlikely as this plane crashing. It just isn’t going to happen.
But I’m still feeling anxious.
(Writing Coach and Medium Sherpa Roz Warren writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, has been in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections, and is the author of Just Another Day At Your Local Public Library. Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.)