After almost a year, it actually happened. Despite all the precautions I’d taken, my rapid acclimatisation to the ‘new normal’ – working from home, a complete curtailment of my usual tendency towards physical affection, not leaving the house unless absolutely necessary – I caught Covid.
Maybe I couldn’t handle the isolation anymore, maybe I thought I deserved a treat after such a crazy year, maybe I thought I was invincible. Whatever the motivation, despite knowing better, I went away with some friends after Christmas.
We’d all been careful. I even tested beforehand to make sure I wasn’t unknowingly infecting anyone, but despite it all, one of us had contact with asymptomatic family members at Christmas lunch. By the time they tested and he was informed, it was far too late – we pretty much all had the virus.
And yet we were all extremely lucky. None of us had symptoms much worse than lousy flu. None of us needed to be hospitalised or put on a ventilator, but that makes the ‘survivors remorse’ even worse.
Talking to my Uber driver on the way home from work this week, he told me he was both scared and desperate. Scared, because his sister, a teacher in East London, died from Covid last year, leaving behind two small children to be raised by their now single father. Seven other teachers at her same school died within weeks of each other. He was desperate because, with the reduced clientele from the lockdown, he couldn’t afford the repayments on his car, and the bank was getting more demanding every day.
I am one of the lucky ones in every way. I kept my job. I can work effectively from home, afford to have necessities delivered, access high-speed internet for work and entertainment, and even have friends in similar positions to video call when I get lonely. Despite (possibly because of?) my tremendous privilege, I still was irresponsible and became infected. How much harder must it be for those living in poverty, on the margins, and without distraction?
I have a newfound perspective on the way people in our country are reacting to the pandemic, and I’m ashamed of how judgemental I’ve been over the last year. While I’m certainly more compassionate in my thinking, I’m still terrified of the pandemic. Therefore, I urge everyone to even greater caution. I pray others may have more fortitude than I had. We need to look after each other, and out for each other, now more than ever.