The Bittersweet Feeling of Getting Vaccinated

Have we become more connected or more polarized?

Bill Oxford / Getty Images

Last weekend, I received the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Though I would have eventually got the vaccine, I hadn’t been in any rush. But I sought out the vaccine sooner based on the urging of my boyfriend, who had already been vaccinated. I likely would have waited for my next doctor’s appointment.

As I drove to the convention center to get my vaccine early on a Saturday morning, I started to feel a sense of relief. “Maybe this really will be over soon,” I thought to myself. But I felt something else too that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was something like regret or foreboding but not that strong. Uncertainty, maybe? Were we ready for the pandemic to be over? Did we learn the lessons we needed to learn? I wasn’t so sure.

I pulled into the Prudential parking garage in Boston at 8 a.m. Cars were piling in with people on the same mission. We gathered together (adhering to social distancing guidelines, of course) to wait for elevators and make our way through the long corridors of the mall. Occasionally, I would make eye contact with another human. It was like we were on a pilgrimage. Although I couldn’t see or share a smile beneath our masks, I like to assume one was there. There was a knowing look, maybe even a head nod. We had survived and were going to make it to the other side.

We want our families to be safe, we want our lives to have meaning, and we want to experience health and happiness.

This pandemic has affected everyone in deeply different ways; people have lost loved ones and careers and security. I recognize the tragedy and acknowledge the suffering, but for me, there have been life lessons that surfaced throughout the experience. These are some of the teachings that I’ll take with me going forward:

Create a strong inner life

We don’t have control over external events (obviously). Thus, we need to prioritize creating a solid and adaptable inner life that can weather the unexpected twists and turns. Without being able to distract ourselves with long hours at the office, shopping, or travel, we had to sit with the one constant — our minds. And learn to make peace with ourselves. The coronavirus shined a spotlight on the areas of our lives that many of us need to address, including our relationships, careers, and mental health.

We are connected

Our connections and friendships don’t need to be confined to our geographical location or existing communities. There are people worldwide who share the same values, interests, and concerns as each of us. We are all part of a global community. I’ve made more meaningful connections in the last year with women interested in spirituality, health, and what it means to be a woman than I had in the previous 20 years.

We are more powerful than we know

Our words, actions, and thoughts genuinely affect others and our environment. We learned that we could spread a deadly virus without even knowing it. We can also spread misinformation, bad feelings, and a sense of separation. We need to take radical responsibility for what we’re putting out into the world and contribute to a harmonious society.

We are less powerful than we know

There is a force greater than us at play. Novel viruses can spread, jobs can disappear, and the structure we thought we had can crumble. This is where our faith comes in—faith that you’re part of a more significant, more creative divine life force. An understanding that there is a life/death/life cycle to this experience, and while there will be endings, there will also be new beginnings. Trust that you have the creativity, skill, and wisdom to adapt.

The Earth is our true mama

For most of the year, people needed to take their activities outside. There were socially distant picnics, hikes, and walks. Let’s hope this continues. We need to spend more time outdoors, remembering our connection and complete dependency on the Earth. She does not need us, but we most definitely need her.

These are just some of the lessons that have stood out to me, but I definitely think there’s more to learn as we heal from this pandemic.

In many ways, the coronavirus pandemic brought us together, reminding us of our shared humanity. However, in other ways, we seem more polarized than ever.

Perhaps because we’ve taken to screens more to communicate with others, we’ve fallen victim to the algorithms of social media and sensationalized news grasping for eyes. Both political parties have become caricatures of their most extreme views and opinions. The center, where I suspect most people fall, is considered blasphemous and is pressured to take a more radical position. This is troublesome because if we can’t have a conversation with people who don’t share the exact opinions as us — how will we move forward?

We are all more similar than we are different. Didn’t Covid-19 try to show us that? We want our families to be safe, we want our lives to have meaning, and we want to experience health and happiness. And most of us want that for others too. If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma yet — please add it to your list. It should be required viewing.

Let’s all consider our contribution to the divisiveness we are experiencing. Remember, we are more powerful than we know. Are you an uplifting force? Do you offer goodwill to your neighbors? Can you engage in a conversation with someone who thinks differently?

When I got to the vaccination hall, I was amazed at how well-organized the operation was. I had brought a book and notebook to keep myself occupied but didn’t even have a chance to take them out of my bag. Navy members were administering the vaccines, and everyone I encountered was kind, thorough, and knowledgeable. Thank you, sailors.

As I made the appointment for my second vaccine in three weeks, I couldn’t help but feel a little invincible. But I also felt bittersweet. Like I was moving on to the next level before I was ready. Or course, we’re never really prepared to move on. We just need to trust and take the leap. It’s the process of evolution. If we don’t learn the lessons we need, we’ll get them again.

What did you learn from the coronavirus? What do you still need to learn?

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