It is currently 5 am. I have been up since 4, plagued by the information I now carry with resounding devastation and anxiety. What I had anticipated over the last 10 days has unfortunately been reassured with a simple byline of a test result: I am positive for COVID-19.
Over the last several years, being sick has been part of my daily life. When you spent as much time on airplanes as I did, it really came with the territory, and I knew the associated risk. In 2019, it was necessary to keep my job, my relationship & my sanity, logging more than 60,000 miles in 8 months. Spending that kind of time in public places, sharing the same air with so many different people, it was a small price to pay to live. From all the respiratory infections, touches of flu, colds, & sinus infections in the last seven years...nothing has felt more sobering than this diagnosis.
Now - I will be the first person to admit when I am in the wrong. Or better yet, being dramatic. And to put you at ease, I am not dying. Although not being able to taste my food or hug my boyfriend or see my family makes me certainly feel down. The more significant reason I am sharing this with you today is that I was wrong. About everything.
When our country went into lockdown in March of this year, I honestly felt one emotion, which was disappointment. Disappointed for all the missed social gatherings, the weddings that were no longer happening. My boyfriend and I met at a wedding after all, and I have always loved being in large groups celebrating with others. The social butterflies of the world can empathize with me; it was a challenging few months. However, I knew people were dying, but there was honestly so much information out there with a division so strong, it was virtually impossible to keep straight. Watch the news, don't watch the news, COVID isn't real, I'm anti-mask, please wear your mask, I have a condition that prevents me from wearing a mask, I could go on for days.
So with this information, I opted to continue living my life when the world opened up. Dinners with friends, boat gatherings for birthdays, bridal showers, road trips through National Parks; you name it, I did it. I am a healthy 28-year-old. As long as I wash my hands and conduct proper hygiene regimes, I will be okay. I was wrong.
I was met with a brutal confrontation with reality when a friend of mine found out that her parents had tested positive for COVID-19. She had seen them on Monday, had been with them for most of that week, returned home on Saturday, and had driven down to see my boyfriend and me on Sunday. She tested positive the next Tuesday. I know this by heart because you have to know. These questions were the primary subject the doctor implored me on a zoom call that day. After I had naturally wiped the tears enough to connect with a physician. He carefully explained that I had to wait and quarantine for at least 7 days before I tested for COVID if I did not start to show symptoms. "Symptoms can show up as late as a week to 14 days after exposure," he said thoughtfully, "I suggest you rest up and distance yourself from others until at least Sunday."
I was so careful, I thought. I was healthy, I made sure to use hand sanitizer. I was wrong.
I immediately called my boyfriend in a panic, unsure what to do as he was at his job where he worked in a lab with others, "exposing even more innocent people," I thought. He assured me that we would get through this and promptly came home 20 minutes later, supportively sitting by my side as I rapidly googled scientific research on the virus. And the next three days went by, feeling a whirlwind of anxiety, stress, grief, anger, and restlessness to find out if the inevitable had, in fact, occurred. Until I started feeling a soreness in my throat 5 days into our quarantine. We received nose swabs on day 6, "am I starting to feel congested?" I said to myself that afternoon. On day 7, I woke up to my boyfriend making me breakfast. Little did I know it would be the last meal I could taste for a while. Day 8 brought the fatigue and headaches, and on day 9, shortness of breath when walking up a flight of stairs after needing to see sunshine for the first time in over a week. I was wrong about everything.
What you do today matters, and I don't mean this in the way that you are probably thinking. What you do today impacts everyone around you. From the kind older grocery store attendant who takes your credit card to the person you fall asleep to and wake up with every morning, your actions impact everyone around you. The world has been the most divided I have ever seen in my 28 years, and there are so many facets to that statement. But the greatest one for me is that we are selfish. I was selfish. I put my necessity to be around people before the health of the people around me. And for that, I am incredibly sorry. There is no one to blame here but myself. And at the end of the day, people are and will continue to succumb to this virus.
What I will leave you with is a salient but straightforward reminder to put others before ourselves. Kindness is exceptional and rare, and this virus has given us a unique opportunity to show someone that they are appreciated for staying home. For wearing a mask. For educating yourself. For displaying to the world that you care about the people around you. Somewhere in 2020, this sentiment has gotten lost. I am here to tell you it is very real. I am here to tell you that I was wrong about everything.