Illustration by Peyton Krzyzek
I never realized how much I loved the American way of life until COVID-19 took away our civility, our mutual respect and our sense of normalcy. When the country does eventually open back up, I will never take it for granted again.
I want to go back to an America where someone coughing isn’t cause for alarm, where you can look someone in the face and see a smile and where hugging, holding hands or stepping closer than 6 feet from someone doesn’t register angry stares.
What I feel I miss the most is how Americans lived their lives.
Beforehand I didn’t appreciate how open things were. I didn’t do enough in my free time, and now it hurts because I can’t when I need to the most. I miss going to school in person, attending classes with other people and desperately looking for a place to park while running late. I miss watching movies in a theatre and enjoying dinner inside a restaurant with family or a date.
Dating became very challenging as most people I would match with on Tinder or Bumble were justifiably wary of COVID-19 and didn’t want to meet up. I don’t blame them. Even if there was no pandemic, everything — restaurants, movie theaters and even some parks — have been closed.
It’s not just dating.
The pandemic has either cancelled or restricted a lot of what I love. My favorite podcasts used to have live audiences but are now recorded over video conference or moved to a studio. It’s not the same. Comedy shows and musical events I looked forward to have been cancelled.
It is getting harder to connect with anyone, with anything. I always considered myself lonely, but this period of social distancing had intensified my loneliness to the point of near depression.
This was until I recently had the chance to reconnect with a friend of mine I haven’t seen since late 2019. After we graduated, we spent a good part of that summer hanging out and spending time together. He was joining the military and left for training at the end of the summer. We hadn’t spoken since. The same can be said for our group of friends as we had all stopped hanging out when we started our lives in college, work or the military.
Then, a few weeks ago my friend who had left for training texted me and told me he had been sent home after being injured. He wanted me to hang out with everyone who was in our group a year ago. Due to COVID-19 and other reasons they were all home as well. That night we got together, and it was one of the best times of my life. I can still visualize us sitting around a bonfire in my friend’s backyard talking, telling jokes and catching up on each others’ lives. None of us said a word about the pandemic or social distancing. For that night, we lived life the way we used to and had fun.
What struck me most was looking my friends in their faces. No masks. I could see their expressions, their smiles and their laughter. I could tell when someone was shocked or even somewhat bored. Another part of life I took for granted.
When the pandemic ends and nights like these can become frequent again, I very much plan to take advantage of everything our country offers when there aren’t any restrictions on what we can do. One lesson I have learned from everything that has transpired as a result of COVID-19 is that the pandemic mindset is unhealthy and harmful. It also goes against my idea of freedom. It may not be for others but I imagine there is a good amount of people who feel the same way I do and they are suffering in the same ways I am. When America opens back up and COVID-19 is finally forgotten is when we will truly be free again.