I am now fully vaccinated. Although I got my second shot on April 6th and thus was fully protected by April 26th, I didn't step outside without a mask or step foot into a restaurant until last night.
Over the past year, I basically took a hiatus from life. I worked from home, got my groceries delivered, and rarely left the house. I didn't see any friends or members of my family for over a year. I missed birthdays, dance recitals, holiday dinners, and everything else. I didn't drive my car for months and had the nerve to be surprised when it didn't start. No one told me that you had to drive a car a couple of times a week to avoid a dead battery.
Truth be told, I was already kind of hermit before the pandemic, so locking myself down to avoid getting COVID-19 didn't drive me as crazy as it would someone more social. But, after all this time, even I miss traveling, attending conferences and other events, and hanging out with family and friends.
Yesterday was my niece's birthday and she had her heart set on celebrating it with a family dinner at Yard House. My baby sister and her progeny are a lot less afraid to socialize during the pandemic than I am. That may be because they're younger and, as a nurse, my sister's an essential worker who can't work from home.
As last night approached, I realized how nervous I was about taking off my mask to eat in a restaurant. Even though I'm fully vaccinated and as protected as I could possibly be, I was still ambivalent about stepping out into the real world again. I felt unprepared on so many levels. Like many others, I've gained weight during my self-imposed hibernation and didn't get my hair or nails done for fear of getting infected by the virus. So, I have gray roots and no manicure or pedicure to show off.
Working from home, I haven't had to dress up below the waist in ages and didn't relish going through the trouble, but I knew I had to make an effort. My baby sister recently lost some weight and I knew that she and my niece would be dressed to kill. So, I threw on a wig, wore all black, painted my nails a glittery pink, and put on some makeup.
I expected to be tense, nervous and paranoid even though I looked forward to seeing my family. But somewhere along the way to the restaurant, I relaxed. In fact, I left my face mask in the car and didn't even realize it until I got to the outside hostess desk and saw her wearing one.
It was weird because I'm one of those folks who double mask even though I've been vaccinated. It's an ingrained habit at this point. In fact, I left my condo double masked (surgical mask with a cloth mask on top) and didn't take them off until I got into my car. Nonetheless, I leaped out of my car and walked to the restaurant without them. Needless to say, I went back to get them as soon as I realized and put them back on before entering the restaurant even though the restaurant didn't require it. I live in Florida and all mask restrictions have been lifted except that businesses have the option to require their guests to wear them.
I enjoyed celebrating my niece's birthday and hanging out my family immensely. We sat at a back booth and it felt right. It didn't feel dangerous or reckless or tense any of the things that I expected to feel. Instead, it felt freeing. I just had to get over the mental hurdle my self-imposed isolation and fear mounted.
Don't get me wrong. You're not going to see me hanging out at nightclubs, going to concerts, or shopping indoors without a mask. But I might get my hair and nails done and I won't miss any more holiday dinners or dance recitals – especially since my sister's been vaccinated and my brother-in-law, nieces, and nephews are getting theirs soon.
I'm sharing my experience to let you know that if you feel nervous about venturing out after getting vaccinated, it's okay. You're not alone. A lot of us are going to have to figure out how to re-enter the world.