It was the second week of April, and for the first time this year, I could feel spring in the air. As I was walking down to Vine Street, Santigold thundered through my headphones. My heart was beating out of my chest, though whether that was from nerves or from the copious amounts of iced coffee running through my veins, I couldn’t tell. Why was I nervous, you might ask? Despite the rarity of an anaphylactic reaction following the vaccine, my mom had convinced me the night before my vaccination to take three Epi-Pens with me to the vaccination site. Jewish mothers really have a special talent for instilling the fear of God in you.
Since I don’t have a car, I was escorted to a foldable chair by the nurse’s trailer. As I waited for my vaccine, I watched as cars moved through the drive-in terminal where a nurse would administer the vaccine before the passenger drove off. Watching the procession of cars I was transfixed. The clinic felt more like an army compound than a parking lot, the cars well-worn tanks refueling before battle.
After joking about injecting me with a microchip, the nurse gave me the shot. I felt nothing. Fifteen minutes later, after waiting to make sure I didn’t have an adverse reaction to the vaccine, I left.
At first I felt limitless. A year of neurotic hand washing and constant anxiety was finally coming to an end. This feeling continued for the first few days. I felt I could walk around campus with a greater sense of ease. And then it dawned on me: I was let down. While I was grateful to be vaccinated, prior to my appointment I had built the vaccine up so much in my mind that I expected a greater pay off. I was frustrated with myself. What did I think the vaccine was going to do, cure my depression, clear my skin, and water my crops?
I naively expected my life to change dramatically after being vaccinated, unwilling to realize that it will take a while for life to return to some semblance of normalcy. In this way, getting the vaccine has forced me to gain a greater perspective on the pandemic. Although everyone is eager to have their Hot Girl Summer—or Shot Girl Summer, which I saw on Twitter and despise—we need to be more realistic with our expectations of what the near future will hold. While the U.S has ramped up vaccinations in recent months, a recent article in The Guardian pointed out that widespread vaccination rates are far from universal. The Guardian predicted that though many developed countries will be fully vaccinated by the end of 2021, unequal vaccine distribution could delay immunization in poorer nations until 2024. Furthermore, though cases are dropping in the U.S., it’s important that we continue to stay vigilant by wearing masks and social distancing until more people are fully vaccinated.
Next week I will receive my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Once I am fully vaccinated, I will probably experience similar feelings as I did after my first shot. I will feel the same frustration about how slowly life is inching toward a sense of normalcy. However, this time I’ll be better equipped to deal with these feelings. As the pandemic has progressed, I’ve been learning to lean into the power of delayed gratification. I have faith that soon we will be able to hang out with our friends and families without fearing for our health. But until that day I’m willing to wait a little longer, to fight the fatigue with the hope that the payoff will be all the more sweet.
Ben Togut can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.