A year ago today by Rebecca Crichton, Seattle, Washington
On Monday, January 18, 2021, I stood in the snaking line of hundreds of people of all ages and stages, waiting to get my first Covid vaccination. I wasn’t ‘legally’ – whatever that meant – supposed to be there. The website I went to was forwarded by a friend who got it from a colleague’s sister who was a nurse. Those first shots were intended for healthcare workers, but my friend decided to try and, lo and behold, she and her husband got appointments. I tried and got one too, although I felt some guilt and apprehension that I might be turned away.
I passed the link to one person, a good friend with a variety of health challenges. His daughter, who lives on the Columbia River, had made an appointment for him to get vaccinated later in the week in White Swan, Washington. That would have necessitated driving 5 hours to the town, staying overnight with his family in a household full of people of all ages, and driving back.
I thought that if he could get a slot through the website I had used, it qualified as a Good Deed that would exonerate my selfish and clearly privileged behavior. I wrote in my journal: “If they ask me questions and turn me away, that’s okay.”
When I got to the site, I saw how little I had understood about how the whole procedure was structured. Hundreds of volunteers directed cars to parking, pointing to the corralled lines waiting to leave the garage to stand on the long line waiting to get into the venue. We proceeded, observing the six-foot markers ensuring social distances, to fill out forms, confirm identity, register again, before finally emerging into the giant University Ballroom. Half the space held twenty or more tables with the actual vaccinations, the other half was filled with chairs placed six feet apart. Everybody was friendly, encouraging and efficient. “Congratulations!” a man said once I was jabbed and rearranging my clothes. My eyes watered. I felt dazed, amazed, grateful.
When I got home, I sent the website link to a large cluster of friends, saying it had worked for me and hopefully would for them. By then, the rules had changed; my cohort of older adults was now allowed to get vaccinated and all the appointments disappeared in hours.
We were in the new reality of wending our way through the forest of uncertainty and questionable information. We listened to each other’s stories and sorted through whose experiences matched ours. I remember my arm hurting, my head throbbing and needing to rest. That lasted until the morning, when I felt normal. My daughter felt sick for three days; other friends had no response at all.
Looking back, I see how much my own personal style of navigating uncertainty played out. I watched myself accept and reject information depending on the source – whether the news or blogs or friends or family.
Now, fully vaccinated and boosted, I know ten people who have contracted the Omicron variant. My circle survived Delta and are now aware that Omicron is different.
Some of us remember chickenpox parties where parents deliberately exposed their children to kids who had the disease. We are being assured that isn’t a good idea. Most health experts warn about deliberately exposing ourselves to people who either test positive or have symptoms, telling themselves it might be better to “just get it over with.”
We have been changed individually and societally by these almost two years of leaning how little control we have over many issues that affect our lives. What we can control, as we learn over and over again, is how we respond and how we manage those responses.
More than ever before I see how important community is and how much my relationships matter to me. My well-being is intertwined with the well-being of those in the various circles of my life.
I remind myself to remember and embrace how I felt a year ago: Still a bit dazed, somewhat amazed and infinitely grateful.