Pre-pandemic, I was the most outgoing person imaginable. I went to every concert I could, hung out with new people every weekend and hugged everyone goodbye. Needless to say, the pandemic has not been easy for me. 

But even with the excitement of moving back to normal, I know I will not be the person I once was. I still love hanging with new people and will continue to do so when things return to “normal,” but the thought of a concert terrifies me. How I survived bi-monthly moshpits without getting sick every time remains a mystery to me. 

With everything opening back up, I have been more anxious than ever. The invisible threat of contracting COVID-19, or (for me, what I fear more than getting COVID-19) exposing my friends and those I care about to it, remains even as mask mandates are lifted and people are vaccinated. While I would love to dive head-first into normalcy, I do not think I’ll feel comfortable without my mask for a while. 

When my Spotify showed that some of my favorite reggae bands would be performing a mini-festival at a theater near me in early August, I screamed out of excitement. I texted my parents immediately stating that I would go alone if I have to, but that I cannot miss any more concerts. The energy passed around at shows, even when you attend one alone, is unmatched and is my favorite feeling in the world. 

But thinking about going to a concert is conflicting. While I will be vaccinated, will I be able to stand that physically close to strangers? Feeling people breathing down my neck, bumping into strangers left and right and so many germs? The thought of returning to that environment post-pandemic feels impossible. 

At this point, semi-normal is the most I’m willing to ask for. It feels like every-time I get my hopes up thinking we’re nearing the end, a new strain is introduced and cases rise again. I know the time will come where COVID-19 is a thing of the past and masks will disappear, but I don’t think that will happen this summer. 

According to President Joe Biden, the U.S. population could expect vaccinations available for all adults by April 19. With the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines taking a little over a month to become fully effective, we can hope that the majority of the population will be fully vaccinated by the end of June to beginning of July.

Living in a country obsessed with their freedom to choose and riddled with false media, I have low hopes that enough people will get vaccinated to where we will be able to have a normal summer. PEW Research reported on March 5 that 69% of Americans intend to get vaccinated, but the World Health Organization still does not know how many Americans need to be vaccinated for herd immunity to be effective.

This is worrisome for me. As we try to return to normalcy, the majority of our society intends to get vaccinated, but will that be enough? Even when I’m fully vaccinated, will the fear of getting my loved ones sick stay with me? How will I react when I feel symptomatic, even when it’s just a cold or allergies, in the future? Will COVID-19 even be able to be a “thing of the past” for me? 

I am so excited for things to be normal again, but my anxiety prevents me from imagining a world without COVID-19. The trauma we have faced throughout this pandemic has affected some of us more than others, meaning everyone’s adjustment back to normal will be different. For me, I can only hope I won’t have anxiety attacks when I step outside and see a maskless world.

Sydney Fluker is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @sydneymfluker. 

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