A Return to “Normal…”

A Return to "Normal..."

A Return to “Normal…”

I have had the sensation lately, that life is starting to return to normal(ish).

The feeling began when I worked out in a fitness studio for the first time on Tuesday. It was all at once exhilarating and scary… (and also, really freaking hard as I have not done any true “exercise” besides walking since moving to Charleston). And even bigger than that: I’ve booked some trips. I’m going to California (to Palm Springs and Santa Monica) for four nights tomorrow, and I booked a quick trip back to New York for a friend’s engagement party.

I feel like I have all these different parts of me. One part is so excited and happy to get back to normal life. Another (very introverted) part of me is irritated at having to socialize again. Another part of me is just plain nervous. After 15 months of trusting science and listening to the CDC now it feels weird to be told I don’t have to wear a mask. I guess I thought maybe we’d ease into normalcy? Mostly though, I’m (cautiously) excited.

I also realize that not everyone is in the same boat.

I’m really lucky – a lot of privilege is at play. I live in the US, I am fully vaccinated, and I don’t have kids… nor am I really around kids much. Thanks to my friend Danielle, I have been thinking a lot about parents, especially if someone has an immunocompromised child. My heart broke watching a set of stories she posted earlier this week. I can’t imagine the fear that comes with being a parent who has a child with cancer as things start to reopen. Or, of course, other parts of the world. Here in the US we are so lucky to have access to the vaccine. I know not everyone is lucky. This is not something I will ever take for granted.

Right now as a fully vaccinated person I am balancing a few things.

There is of course the sensation of wanting to get back to normal and do things like travel and take workout classes. I trust science, and I have to believe that there is even more at play than we know for the CDC to make such a huge announcement. At the same time, I want to be respectful. There is still a weird thing that happens for me when I don’t wear a mask, even if I don’t actually see people when I’m outside – I don’t want to be an anti-masker!

There’s also the element of being considerate to others. If I am on a quiet street in Charleston or at the beach, I’m not going to wear a mask. But inside, in a grocery store or a pharmacy or a nail salon (or pretty much any closed space where I am not eating), the mask stays on. The mask has come to mean so much more than protecting myself (and not having to put makeup on LOL). It’s also a symbol of caring about others.

Also, I used to always get sick and have a cold. I haven’t been sick at all this year. There’s something to be said for that. I travel a lot (or traveled a lot), and probably got colds 4 or 5 times a year. That’s big. I think at the end of the day my plan is to get back to normal as best I can, but as long as it is still socially acceptable, I plan on wearing masks on public transit and when traveling, in crowded/public spaces, etdc.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on “getting back to normal,” and how you’re feeling about the CDC’s announcement! Sound off in the comments.

photo by Clay Austin.

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  1. Mollye says 5.20.21

    Grace, great post! I have had similar feelings. I was surprised at the CDC changing the mask guidelines so quickly! Regarding masks on planes -as a frequent business traveler, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to not wearing one while traveling. It’s been really nice not to get colds, sore throats etc over the past 15 months! Mollye

    • Val says 5.20.21

      I’m SO with you Mollye! I travel (used to) a lot for work and for fun, I fully expect to continue to wear masks on a plane going forward. Great post Grace, I relate to everything you are saying!

  2. I’m sooo surprised that the CDC switched up so quickly about masks… here in Hong Kong, we would never, even if the government told us it was okay! Lol!

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  3. Helen says 5.20.21

    Where I live it’s still illegal to leave the country, yet we have had less COVID than almost any place in the world. Life here has been pretty much back to normal(ish) for some time. I am extremely bitter that people from the US, where COVID was rife, are able to travel and I am not.

  4. Maggie says 5.20.21

    I was definitely shocked at the CDC’s announcement last week. I’m in CA and I think that our mask mandate will remain the same as they have been until June 15th, which is the date that we believe the state will fully “re-open”, meaning that the colored tier system we’ve been using that dictates occupancy percentages for places such as restaurants, bars, movie theaters, etc will be removed and all places will be allowed to resume 100% occupancy. Of course each private business can still make their own decisions about mask usage & some may choose to continue requiring one.

  5. Heather says 5.20.21

    Oh, I have so many thoughts about all of this!! I’ve been slowly easing back into a normal(ish) life, too – a friend from New York visited and stayed with me this past weekend, and it was so much fun to see her and catch up, but also just felt so strange and like I was doing something “wrong!” I also went out to my first restaurant dinner, which I’ve missed SO much.

    The masking is a bit trickier for me. I completely agree with you that I don’t want people to think that I’m an anti-masker if I’m not wearing one, even though I am fully vaccinated! I also worry about immunocompromised adults, in addition to children – because of how their immune systems work, vaccines often don’t produce as strong of a reaction for them, and/or the protection doesn’t last as long. I worry that they’ll have to continue to stay home even longer now because they can’t trust that only vaccinated people have stopped masking! I understand that they’re hoping to increase vaccination rates by promising a return to “normal” through vaccines, but it just seems to me that without any enforcement, it’s just encouragement for anyone to remove their masks, whether or not they’re vaccinated, especially for people who thought they were useless in the first place!

    • Callie says 5.21.21

      Totally agree. Spot on! I feel like some people don’t do well with critical thinking/compassionate and considerate actions for others.

  6. Susan says 5.20.21

    This has been such an interesting week! As a teacher there have been so many reasons to want normalcy back in the classroom. The kids have adapted so well, but it’s not easy in a mask for 10 hours a day (though I’m sure for doctors and nurses it’s so much longer and harder so I have nothing to complain about. These people are saving us all!). I definitely am going to keep my mask on in stores and am going to ease into these new guidelines instead of flip the switch. It is really nice to have plans on the calendar and see people in person and I love seeing my neighborhood come alive again!

    • Callie says 5.21.21

      Re your neighborhood coming alive…are you in an urban area? What does that look like? (Just curious)

  7. Jen says 5.20.21

    I think I’ll always wear my mask while traveling from now on. And for now, I will wear it in stores and places like that as well. I tried to go grocery shopping without one and felt so strange and uncomfortable. And next fall/winter I will probably go back to wearing one more as well since I also didn’t get sick at all during the pandemic and I’d love to avoid the flus and colds in the future as well.

  8. TC says 5.20.21

    Hi Grace! I’m with you – I’ll still be wearing masks for a while. I’d like to encourage you to avoid the phrase “back to normal.” We’re missing half a million people now, and for most people things will not be “normal” ever again.

    • Mimi says 5.20.21

      The loss of life has been devastating. And some of us have careers or jobs that will never recover from this, etc…not annoyed at Grace at all for using the phrase, but I agree!

      • grace at the stripe says 5.20.21

        Thank you both. That makes a lot of sense and was a little insensitive of me. It’s why I put the word in quotes and said “normal-ish”, but I hear you. It’s hard to figure out what to call it!!!

      • Callie says 5.21.21

        Agree! I’m in the same boat with you with the job. It’s gone.

    • My 2 cents says 5.21.21

      Hi there . Could I super gently say that I don’t agree with this criticism. I feel Grace is always so respectful and careful with expressing her feelings. I feel it’s clear she didn’t mean ‘things will be back to normal and no one has utterly devastated by the last year.’ I’m not trying to be combative with you at all. I see your point. But I think sometimes hyper vigilance with specific sentences just makes people shy about sharing feelings

      • Mimi says 5.21.21

        Good point! I feel like Grace is super-sensitive as well, and I wasn’t offended at all. I’m just a little raw after 14 months of furlough with no concrete end in sight 🙂 As always, though, I believe Grace can and should use whatever wording she’d like on her platform, and I love how she encourages conversation. BTW, “normal-ish” is great!

  9. Molly says 5.20.21

    It’s such a balancing act – I took a mini trip last weekend and have a cross-country trip planned for next week. I’m excited to get to the West Coast again but also still feel weird traveling!

    Luckily, I feel like being in NY means that everyone I know is fully vaccinated and has been for a little while now. That said, I’m not around any kids and if I was I would certainly feel differently. I’ve also been terrified of giving covid to some random person I interact with in the “wild” (read: grocery store lol) and so for me the way to balance that equation is wearing a mask. Also, feel you on not having to wear makeup hahaha. I also love that people can’t recognize me in a mask+sunglasses (I’m living at home with my parents temporarily in their small suburban town, don’t need to run into my prom date’s parents grabbing coffee!!)

    As always, I love love love your personal essays/posts! Keep em coming.

  10. Cy says 5.20.21

    I do feel relieved and a little more free(actually home sick with the side effects of my second vax )I really wish the CDC would talk about how wearing masks has almost eliminated the flu and colds this season (yes they work!). And for people that are anti-vax; guess what doesn’t exist anymore because of vaccinations? Crippling and fatal polio and small pox, just to name two. I also think we would feel more comfortable if airlines required their employees to be vaccinated. Healthcare workers should also have to comply. I don’t understand the selfishness of people. I was talking to my checker at TJ’s the other day and she said the employees feel more comfortable wearing masks because customers aren’t always “sanitary. Having worked at a large hotel for many years I have to concur. Hopefully this last year has taught us to be more mindful. I really miss traveling. Thank you for the thoughtful post, Grace.

  11. Pat Schwab says 5.20.21

    Grace, My daughter said the same thing- she hasn’t been sick like she usually is because of the mask and plans on wearing hers even though we are now all vacinated. I am glad they are still requiring masks when I am going to my medical appointments.

  12. Kim says 5.20.21

    It’s time. We cannot mitigate every risk nor should we. People saying they’ll keep theirs on when they have a cold next season or forever for travel seem ridiculous IMO. That said, to each their own but I will not. With adults who want to be vaccinated, being able to get and vaccinated , I’m done with masks.. the same goes for young children. If it’s all about “trust the science”, there’s no way they should be in masks anymore… the social and emotional toll this is having on them is far worse than a virus they aren’t getting sick from. That said, “you do you” but I will not be wearing a mask again nor will my kids. It’s turned into such a weird moral political statement… everyone needs to stop being so precious, stop trying to control everyone around then. Get over themselves, do what they think is best for them and move on..

    • Lauren says 5.20.21

      Yes to all of this, Kim!

      Grace, I’m surprised that you keep going on about returning to “normal” because you’ve been doing a lot of socializing since you moved. Even in NY you were seeing friends and eating out. In this week’s outfit post you basically ate out every day with different people each time. You’ve seen visitors from out of town and now you’re going on two trips. If you were that scared you wouldn’t be doing most or any of these activities. Good for you that you are because it’s time for everyone to move on. Have fun and enjoy yourself, mask or no mask!

    • Elizabeth says 5.20.21

      I do agree with this. It’s time we move on and I work in healthcare. I have been through the unbelievable stress that this pandemic caused . But my kids have suffered mentally more than any child should. I understand parents with kids that are immunocompromised have to do what they must to protect their children. Same goes for me. I have to protect my 13 year old daughter who in now seeing a therapist and increasing her anxiety medicine due to the toll it took on her with virtual school and missing out on what a normal school / sports season should have been. I see first hand what it did to kids. The amount of children we are now seeing because of the mental and emotional issues in the emergency rooms will make you stop in your tracks . The suicide attempts are increasing. These kids are young . 11. 12. What upsets me are the people who believed the science a year ago but now don’t want to. I am all for the vaccine. My daughter gets hers Sat. My 8 year old won’t be eligible yet . But his risk is minimal. We are returning to normal. I am all for “you do you ” but some influencers need to stop making everyone feel like their way is the only way when dealing with decision . And Yes to another poster about Grace being out to dinner constantly , around all the different friends groups , and traveling . It’s ok. It seems like you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

      • grace at the stripe says 5.20.21

        Just to give my two cents. For me there is a big difference between eating out – outdoors – and getting on an airplane, or taking a workout class inside where you are sweating and in close proximity to others. Yes, I do eat out a lot, but it’s been outdoors, with friends who are also vaccinated, which has felt safe to me. We all have different comfort levels with different things. 🙂

    • Kimberly says 5.21.21

      I followed every CDC recommendation and state mandate (NJ here, so mask mandates came early and remain in effect). I stayed home, I cancelled plans, I masked, and then double masked. I haven’t seen my father since November, 2019. I cancelled last year’s summer travel plans while watching people and their kids travel freely. I received the vaccinations as soon as I could, and I continue to evangelize about them to those who are still on the fence. I ate out for the first time –inside or out — only 3 weeks ago. I’m not even thinking of getting on an airplane until at least the fall.

      And I’m not saying this to get a gold star sticker for pandemic behavior. I’m saying this because (like many of us) I was mocked by family and friends for taking all of the above steps and fine, let them call me a snowflake, I don’t care. My skin is pretty thick now, so if people want to judge me as being uncaring/anti-mask/anti-science/Trumpublican because I am following the CDC recommendations and take my mask off where I am able to, then I also don’t care. I know who I am. Many scientists worked tirelessly and many volunteers stuck their arms out to get us back out there. If vaccinated people still want to wear masks, cool! If vaccinated people want to take them off, also cool!

      Wall of text aside, have a great trip and I look forward to sunny photos!

    • Cy says 5.21.21

      Unfortunately, it’s not far worse than the virus. I’m not saying it’s easy, but after having Covid-19 and the accompanying pneumonia( which many patients have died from,it doesn’t have the same symptoms of the regular pneumonia)I was hospitalized and my friends and family were all terrified that I wouldn’t make it. A dear friend lost his brother. This virus is no joke. Everyone needs to do what’s best for them. I believe we also need to care about our community.

  13. Brandi says 5.20.21

    Agree! I will be wearing a mask on planes from now on! I’m certainly not anti-mask and have embraced it and feel a bit weird letting it go too but I am starting to just be over it (especially as a southerner where wearing masks has definitely been more of a personal choice than a mandate and a bit of of a hot button topic the entire pandemic). I bet it really has been an interesting shift for you in certain areas and sections of Charleston to experience the entirely different feelings about the pandemic in general. Masks, travel, social events… it really is a completely different world from New York and other major cities in the US. You have been a good role model and helped bring awareness and I do not think you should feel guilty for ditching the mask anywhere except places that specifically state to wear it. Thanks for awesome content Grace, both serious and light!

  14. Rebecca says 5.20.21

    I agree with all you’ve said. I’m not sure I’ll ever use public transportation again without wearing a mask. I’m surely not going into a doctor’s waiting room without one nor flying. What were we thinking?
    I’m nervous about it all and if I’m wearing a mask and someone asks me, WHY? I might just say I wasn’t able to be vaccinated. It’s a lie. But it’s so politicized. I just don’t want to get into it.
    Enjoy your trips and I’ll look forward to your thoughts on NYC reopening. Cause I think that’s the first place we’re going.

  15. michelle says 5.20.21

    Have a blast! We are still under a mask mandate in California until June 15th, but like you I will still be wearing one indoors after that date.

  16. Kristina says 5.20.21

    So nervous! But not about covid per say, about socializing regularly again. I’m an extroverted introvert and I need my down time. I’m worried everyone’s going to cram things in because we can and I’ll go because part of me wants to and I get fomo but I’ll need a break. I also agree that masks have been so helpful not just for covid and I’m not looking forward to that again.

    As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts Grace!

  17. Amanda Delaney says 5.20.21

    I love how you say “It’s also a symbol of caring about others.” You said it all so well! What a strange time returning to normalcy. I’ve found myself putting so much pressure on events. This weekend has to be perfect or I’ve waited so long for this trip. Before there were so many plans they just came and went. Hoping to put a little less pressure on things and be kind to myself in the re-entry. This year also just got soooo busy!