Are you ready to rejoin the world?
I’m three weeks out from my second vaccine, and I’ve been venturing back into spaces I had abandoned more than a year ago. My sweetheart and I went to the movies to the see the Oscar-Nominated Shorts, and I’ve resumed my weekly breakfast at a local restaurant. Last weekend, we hosted a small outdoor gathering to celebrate my birthday, which felt positively scandalous. One guest found herself reaching to shake the hand of another guest before pulling her hand away and apologizing profusely. Observing those around me, it seems like we are all trying to navigate this new new normal.
Does my friend mind if I hug them?
Can I go without a mask in the park?
When and where is it okay to close the 6-foot social distancing gap?
Life suddenly has all the awkwardness, excitement, anticipation of a middle school dance with slightly less acne and hormones. For my fellow students sitting in folding chairs around the perimeter of the gymnasium, wondering how to make it on to the dance floor, here are some questions I’ve been asking myself lately.
First and foremost, what feels comfortable and safe?
The pandemic is not over, and it’s important to continue to think about your health and the health of those around you. The CDC guidelines keep changing. Every community is experiencing something different in terms of number of COVID cases and how well people are following public safety rules and recommendations. The vaccine is rolling out quickly in my town, but that’s not happening everywhere. Plus, many people are torn on whether to get the vaccine. All of these are factors to consider when deciding how, when, and with whom to socialize.
Only you can decide what feels right and what doesn’t. It can be a balancing act between filling a need to see other people and respecting your limits. If venturing out creates so much anxiety you can’t enjoy yourself, is it still worth it?
What have you learned about your social self during quarantine?
Do a self-assessment to figure what has changed for you. From conversations I have had, it seems people discovered a lot about themselves over the last year. Introverts are realizing they took a lot of small social opportunities for granted. Encounters at the library while checking out books and running into people at the movies. On the other hand, I’ve spoken with very social people, who have embraced their alone time more than they thought they would.
What do you need?
Humans are social animals by nature. The science and public health communities recognize that there are serious health risks to indefinite isolation, and it is fair to weigh these risks against your chance of getting COVID.
If you are feeling exceptionally lonely or isolated, think about what social needs are not being met. You might consider speaking to a therapist or a counselor (or a life coach), who can help you explore ways to reconnect with the world and fulfill your mental health needs. Or just take some time to ask yourself what’s missing in your life? If you could do one social thing this week, what would it be?
Who do you want to see again? (Who do you NOT want to see again?)
All this time away from each other may have got you thinking about who you are excited to see again and who you are not as excited to see again. A silver lining of the pandemic is that we've all had a (mostly) universally accepted excuse not to show up for things.
“Would love to but COVID.”
“I would absolutely join you if it weren’t for COVID”
With many people vaccinated and CDC guidelines loosening up in most places, the “COVID” excuse is losing its value. Plus, it becomes an all or nothing excuse. You can’t tell someone you can’t go to their cookout because of COVID and then be seen dining out with someone else.
Unfortunately, I think it comes to a point where we just gotta be honest. (Or come up with a better excuse.) For many of you, this could be the most uncomfortable part of re-socializing post-pandemic. I’ll admit it has come up more than once for me. Now that I can start seeing everyone again, it doesn’t mean I want to see everyone again. There are a few people I’ve enjoyed having a break from.
What are YOUR rules and guidelines for the next month?
Things continue to evolve and things in your community may look completely different a few months from now. You’ll have countless uncomfortable and awkward situations to navigate, so let’s just focus on the next month. Come up with a customized list of rules and guidelines for socializing for the next month.
When do you require masks?
How many people do you feel comfortable around?
Indoors or outdoors and when?
If you are in a relationship or live with other people, consider including them in the process. In the coming weeks, you can refer back to this document when you are deciding how and when to venture back into the world of people. Now get on out there!