Between my work hours and my general low-key antisocial tendencies, I was sort of living like a hermit even before the pandemic. I mean, I’m not a sociopath or anything – I like most people, and I have a handful of very close lifelong friends I’d see frequently in the Before Times. In addition, I had work friends that I talked to while waiting for the coffee to brew, and I had “birthday party” friends that I talked to while our children ran around screaming at various extremely loud locations around town. But beyond that, I didn’t do much. I didn’t go “clubbing.” I didn’t often go out to dinner because my husband and I both like to cook. I didn’t go to music festivals because I don’t like crowds.
Still, though, quarantine has shrunken my previously paltry social life down to nothing. If it were just my family and me, I might have taken the occasional risk, but caring for my 83-year-old father, who almost died of pneumonia last year and spent months on oxygen, made any kind of human contact a risky proposition. It wasn’t worth sending my kids back to school, going back to the office, or even going to the grocery store if the “cost” of that “cost-benefit analysis” was accidentally killing my father.
Now, though, blessedly, he is doing much better and has received two doses of the Moderna vaccine. My mom has also received both doses, as have my in-laws. And my husband and I are both now eligible, due to our jobs, and have appointments coming up to “get the jab.”
But as I start to venture out into the world again, I’m learning that I’m now utterly unfit for human interaction, even more than I was before. A recent attempt to go to Old Navy to exchange a pair of jeans left me in tears. After I sent my 8-year-old back to school, I shook all over as I drove away from the carpool line. Birthday parties and indoor dining are still out of the question for me. I am going back to work tomorrow, and I don’t exactly know where to find a bra or even if my March 2020 pants will still button.
Those readers who are my age will remember a Very Special Episode of “Saved by the Bell” in which Jessie Spano becomes addicted to caffeine pills and has a nervous breakdown while scream-sobbing, “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so scared!”
That’s where I am now, emotionally. I’m so excited. I truly am. I’ve missed my coworkers, my students, and my nice cozy office. And I’m also scared. I’m unsure how to even be lately in public settings.
Tomorrow, though, I will get settled back into my office. I’ll snuggle into the sweater that’s been hanging empty on the back of my office chair for almost a year. I will hang up my 2021 calendars. And, although I’m not addicted to caffeine pills, I will make myself a strong cup of office coffee … and talk to my coworkers while it brews.