Guidance in the new algebra of risk and apprehension. Test anxiety.
The goal is to weigh the risk you’re considering against the risk you’re willing to take on—essentially figuring out if the potential boost to your well-being is worth it. That threshold will vary from person to person, and we should make room for that diversity, Taber said. Some people will want to dip their toes into the water more slowly, as Carter put it, and that’s okay.
Inevitably, people’s social expectations will misalign, and we’ll all need to exercise some patience, with ourselves and others, and clearly communicate our ground rules. “Say what you need and what you feel comfortable with,” Carter said. The activities we can safely do after vaccination should not necessarily be seen as the behaviors we should engage in; they are options, not obligations.
That sort of transparency isn’t intuitive for everyone, certainly not me. I have spent months roiling in a data-rich stew of fear and silence. I’m also worried about my own limitations. There is, first off, my lingering COVID-19 concern: I can’t help but worry that, even after I’m fully vaccinated, I’ll make a misstep—that I’ll somehow catch the virus and pass it on to someone else. I’m also worried that, amid all this chaos and isolation, I’ve simply forgotten how to be a social human. Charisma isn’t like riding a bike. And I’m not eager to show off just how far I’ve regressed—how much the pandemic has eroded my ability to engage.
The way to quash that fear is, of course, to flex the mingling muscles that have atrophied, and to remind myself that, as misanthropic as I can be, I do enjoy exercising them from time to time. Instead of yielding to my inertia, I’m reminding myself of the things I miss: hugging my friends. Smelling fresh-baked restaurant bread. Heading to an office that isn’t 30 feet away from my bed. I’m going to start slow, probably with a haircut or an outdoor picnic, then work my way up to the 18,000 weddings I’ve been invited to this fall. I’ll share my vaccination status with the people I want to interact with, and hope they offer me the same courtesy in return. I’ll learn how to say “Thank you, but I’m not ready for that” without the guilt eating me up.