If you’ve ever experienced a car ride with a young child, you know that feeling of impatience, frustration and desperation! “Are we there yet? How much longer?” Regardless of the destination, for young children, most trips seem interminably long.
Covid is starting to feel that way to me. How much longer? When will we all get vaccinated? When can we stop wearing masks? Are we there yet?
Ten months into the pandemic and my tolerance for our new normal is fading. With each passing day, I yearn more and more for the mundane activities that I never bothered to appreciate before; meeting acquaintances wherever and whenever I wanted to, inviting family and friends for Shabbat meals, going to shul, going to the theater, dressing in a variety of outfits for different events, going to the movies, and even going to the opera with my husband (a taste I have yet to acquire). Everything that I complained about “having to do,” I only wish I had the opportunity to do now.
While the long-awaited vaccine has arrived, the roll-out has not been nearly as seamless as we had hoped. At the rate of a million people vaccinated per day, with two vaccines required, it may take more than a year to reach everyone in the US, so the light at the end of this dismal tunnel still seems too far off in the distance.
I was thinking back to how I spent last year’s yeshiva break vacation and suddenly I was flooded with memories of the many freedoms we had and naturally took for granted; talking to people without wearing a mask, eating indoors at restaurants, traveling without having to quarantine afterward. Oh, how I long for those carefree, pre-COVID-19 days!
While many of us are fortunate that we have not contracted the virus, the pandemic has still taken a steep toll on the lives of each one of us, in a myriad of ways. With millions infected and four hundred thousand deaths in the US, the numbers are quite sobering. Almost everyone knows a family that has lost a loved one to this dreadful disease. Their pain is unimaginable and will continue long after the pandemic has passed. I think it is fair to say that we are all living with a certain degree of masked depression and trauma, even as we soldier on towards better times. Like fighters returning from battle, our experiences in-the-time- of-covid will last long after the return to more normal times.
What have we endured?
For younger children and their parents, suddenly switching to school on zoom has been maddening and endlessly challenging.
For teens being forced to be socially isolated from peers while being cooped up with immediate family, indefinitely, has been dispiriting. After all, being stuck at home is every teenager’s worst nightmare.
For middle and high school students, living in school communities that do not offer a hybrid combination of remote and in school instruction, it has been excruciatingly painful to cease all in-person learning in favor of all classes on zoom. The lack of socialization and human interaction is depressing.
For college graduates, navigating the job interview process in virtual reality and trying to land a first job in this pared-down Covid market is challenging if not impossible.
For teachers, it has been monumentally challenging to abruptly transform their lesson plans and curriculum from in-person teaching to remote learning. Yet the teachers I work with have invested countless hours, personal time, and tremendous effort to ensure that their students continue to learn even during a pandemic.
Parents have acquired newfound awe and appreciation for teachers since they are being called upon to fill in as surrogate instructors in the zoom classroom – not an easy task.
Adults suddenly working from home are forced to master new technology and maintain their sanity and professionalism while on laptops in tight and cramped spaces and competing for quiet and calm.
As a school psychologist, it’s been challenging to recognize students when they wear a mask all day and I meet with them for a short time once a week. I have been trying to identify new students by the color of their hair and other defining features that masked faces will permit. I confess that it does not always go smoothly. I have repeatedly confused several blond girls, as well as boys that are tall, thin, with dark hair and dress similarly. I also struggle to hear some students clearly when masked and without the added ability to read lips, and I am reluctant to continuously ask “what…?”
For all ages at all stages of life, this has been a year unlike any other in the history of mankind.
And yet as we look around us, we recognize that it could be much worse. For some, it HAS been worse. It’s natural if we feel conflicting emotions and we’re learning that we can hold space for confusing emotions because in these unpredictable times we often feel many opposite things at once; anxious and optimistic, fearful and grateful, fortunate and worried, simultaneously.
Therefore, besides waiting for everyone to get the vaccine, we should be mindful of the residual impact of the pandemic on our emotional and psychological state. We are living through a very difficult time and it’s important to admit that.
So what should we do?
We should acknowledge that it is OK to feel sad.
We should acknowledge that it’s is OK to feel mad.
Most importantly, at times we should acknowledge that it is OK to say that I am not OK.
None of us are 100% who we were a year ago.
For most of us, however, after a year of Covid-concerns, Covid-restrictions, isolation, upheaval and more, we have emerged resilient and resourceful. Just as our forefathers and fore-mothers dealt with hardships in the desert en route to the promised land, just as our grandparents and great grandparents lived through the unimaginable horrors of World War 2 and the holocaust, so too our generation is now living through and surviving an unprecedented global pandemic.
We are, it seems, more than halfway through this ordeal and almost able to look past the pandemic and to begin to imagine a world post-Covid-19. Today we are in a better position than we were a few months ago and we can confidently say that we are confronting this, and we will get through it!
The end of the pandemic is not here yet, but it is on the horizon. With the help of family, with the help of friends, with the help of school and community, with the help of the vaccine, with the help of God, the end is in sight.
So, when will we all get the vaccine? When will we have herd immunity? When can we take off our masks? Are we there yet? How much longer?
We have to wait just a little longer.
Tani Foger, ED.D
The Idea School