I Got My First Vaccine Shot Today, A Year After My World Changed

I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

The Wall of Thanks at the Javits Center. Photo by author.

A year ago today was when I had the first real taste of what the coronavirus pandemic would be like. At the time, I was running NYU Local, my school’s news blog, and had just finished a long day of classes when my Slack was buzzing nonstop. NYU told students at its study away site in Florence to pack up their bags within three days and go home, lest they wanted to be stuck in a foreign country during a burgeoning pandemic. That’s when I knew that we were really in trouble. Within a week and a half, the main campus in New York shut down, too.

When I think about the beginnings of the pandemic, it’s never nostalgic. It feels like it happened to somebody else. On 6th Avenue, on my last day of in-person classes, everyone was talking about the incoming apocalypse, from delivery people on the street to the baristas at O Cafe. But I was out of my body, feeling as though I were an extra on a set for some dystopian blockbuster. All the life things I was excited about — that week, I had job interviews, grad school acceptances, my partner’s birthday party — suddenly did not belong to me. I was just another walking sack of flesh, a host for a virus to use for destruction and chaos.

Since then, I’ve struggled with the fact that protecting other people (and myself) meant allowing my disconnected body to dystrophy in some way. I appreciate the privilege I have for working from home, but after a year of stagnancy, I find my brain trying to engender some kind of response from my body, almost as if to remember that I exist physically on this earth and not as an extension of my computer screen. But today, on the train on the way to get vaccinated, I felt like myself again.

Nervous and teary-eyed, I walked into the Javits Center, which was now commandeered by the state and the National Guard for vaccinations, with my paperwork in tow. Currently in New York, essential workers, those over 65, and people who have underlying conditions, like myself, can schedule an appointment to get vaccinated. It’s an annoying, frustrating process to get the appointment, but the actual visit itself is a breeze. Every person I talked to treated me with such kindness. “Are you a Taurus?” the man taking my insurance said. “Hope you have a good birthday soon!” To even imagine a world where I can perhaps hug a friend by May seemed almost too good to be true.

How do you describe hope after a year of refusing to allow yourself to even consider it? A while ago, I accepted that life will have to be different in order for us to survive. It’s a survival technique I’ve learned after years of hardship growing up, so I never really thought about the way I would react when vaccines reached the public. That is, until the nurse jabbed my arm. She acted as though the vaccine was nothing, but to me it was everything. It’s love. It’s safety. It’s peace of mind.

Granted, there’s a lot more work left to be done, and vaccines alone will not solve the pandemic, but there is a magic to knowing that, collectively, our bodies are fighting at the cellular level against the very thing that has kept us apart. Hope is the dull, achy soreness in my arm, knowing that one day, I can see my mom and dad again, hug them, and never let them go.

Writing about climate, culture & comida wherever I go. Work in: GEN, Bitch Media, VICE, Jezebel, and then some. Medium’s resident Gen Z kid.

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