My last post was so cathartic I kinda wanted to do another one. I really feel nearly 10x better after writing that last post. Almost nothing has changed but I think expelling some of the frustration I’ve been feeling really helped me cope. So let’s do another one! As with my previous post there will be no editing, no going back to ensure coherency, nothing. This is just me, reminding myself of the things I’ve been working on the last few days.
Even after my last post I couldn’t shake the depression. That was, honestly, to be expected. I’m carrying a bit of weight here – it’s understandable I can’t shake it after one post. But I realized, in talking to my husband, that some of my problem came from carrying the burden of other’s choices. They wander around, not wearing masks, throwing COVID parties, screaming at store employees, gathering indoors, and protesting the very things that will save them. I read it in the news, I see it in my local town hall meetings, I hear about it from friends, I notice it every time I walk out the door. It feels like a slap in the face. I’m putting my life and sanity on the line for a bunch of people trying their hardest to ruin everything I’ve worked for, trying their hardest to kill (inadvertently, true, but still at fault) the most vulnerable in the population, including my family. It hurts me to see how much people disregard the truth because it’s inconvenient, because it sucks, because whatever.
And it hurts that their decisions could hurt the people I love. I have several immediate family who are high risk, several in-laws who are high risk, and the probability that myself and my son are high risk. There’s a lot riding on other people to do their part so my family can be safe. And I hate that the lack of respect and compassion that people feel toward one another will keep this nightmare lasting for a very. long. time.
But I came to realize the other day that I can’t save people. I can protect myself and my family the best I can – with knowledge, with advice, with recommendations, but they are ultimately going to have to save themselves. I can’t stop Karen from getting sick – I can’t even stop her from passing it along to my friends and family. All I can do is my best to educate, to test, to compile data, to do my job. I can’t save everyone.
There are several things I wish I could do. I wish I could ensure that the only people who get sick and die are the people making the bad choices. But that’s not how viruses work. Let’s say you wear a mask but Karen doesn’t. You’re risk of getting sick from her is not as high if you’re wearing a mask but it’s much greater than 0 if she’s not wearing one. And it’s not even 0 if you’re both wearing a mask but not social distancing. I can’t stop you from possibly getting sick if you’re vaccinated (vaccine’s have complicated protection factors, DM me on instagram if you want the long explanation) if Karen chooses not to get vaccinated. I can’t even protect the people who are trying to be cautious. But I especially can’t protect people who aren’t listening at all. People who are going to gyms, people who don’t wear masks, people who dine in at restaurants, people who stand right behind you in line at the grocery store, people who feel like concerts, like movies, like religious services, like barbecues are somehow safe. And then, in a league of their own, are the socializers. These are the people who have open social groups, who don’t know who their friend/neighbor/family member has been hanging out with but they think it’s safe to see them because they only hang out in groups less than 10. Or some other arbitrary number that actually means nothing to a virus. Because if you hang out with 10 people, but those 10 people all hung out with 10 different people a few days before you just spent an evening with 100 different infectious possibilities. Not 10. But somehow, no matter how often public health officials say it, no one is listening.
It’s extra hard with families. Family has always been safe -they’re familiar, they’re home. they’re comfort, they’re protection. But this virus doesn’t care about how safe your family is supposed to be. Family is not a safe zone. Because people let their guard down with family. They assume that family is safe, despite the fact that brother has roommates who don’t care about social distancing, or sister goes to bars because she’s young! what’s the harm? The virus doesn’t care that you love mom and dad and would never want to hurt them but I’m for sure going to visit for the weekend/have sunday dinner despite the fact that you aren’t allowed to remote work anymore. That’s the scariest part about family – you let your guard down, because family is supposed to be safe. But what you don’t know is that, because you can spread the virus for about 48 hours before symptoms even show up, or show up at all because you’re asymptomatic, you could be hurting the people you love and you don’t even know it.
I can’t save anyone who doesn’t want to be saved. I can’t save the neighbors, I can’t save Karen, I can’t even save my family. I have so much knowledge, nearly 15 years of experience, knowledge, and expertise, and despite trying my hardest and doing my best I can’t protect them. They call it “different circumstances”, “living your life”, “constitutional freedom”, “you just don’t understand”, “my rights”, “a conspiracy”, but what it really boils down to is choices and sacrifices. I can’t force people to make safe choices and I can’t force people to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure their safety. I cry nearly every day from the fear of losing someone I care about. I cry for the 140,000+ US fatalities whose families have already lost someone they cared about. I cry for the hundreds of thousands of people who are going to lose someone they care about before this is over. I wish I weren’t afraid for the people I love but it scares me so badly that sometimes I just feel empty inside.
I, alone, of everyone I know (outside of work) understand the reality of viruses and pathogenesis on a high level. I’m not THE expert, I’m not even a doctorate, but I understand it better than they ever will. And I have the benefit of my colleagues, my understanding of scientific literature, and the regular updates I receive in my job, to broaden and expand my knowledge. But it doesn’t matter – because my knowledge can’t save them. My example can’t save them. My pleading can’t save them. After all I can do the rest has to be up to others. I need to accept that. I need to accept that if and when something goes terribly wrong it’s not my fault. I did everything I could – to the point of people pushing me away, to the point of threats from the public, to the point of losing friends and family. The rest is out of my hands. I think if I can ever accept this truth I may, finally, start to feel okay.
Now, readers, I understand that this makes it seem like no one is listening to me. It’s not true. I have several family members who are taking this just as seriously as they should – I have several who don’t even need me to take this seriously. I have friends who want to learn and ask me questions all the time. I have people who give me hope that the others may come around. And I have you, who read despite the fact that this isn’t about gaming or food. So while I need to accept that I can’t save the people who aren’t listening as much as I wish they were, I also need to understand that there are those out there who do care and who are listening. Maybe focusing on them will help, too. Because if I can’t save everyone maybe I’ve helped save one.