Things may be changing, but it isn’t a hall pass to be an asshole
Jayde Atchison (She/Her) // Opinions Editor
Sharleen Ramos // Illustrator
And just like that, the mandates in B.C. seemed to disintegrate into thin air. We have been waiting for the day when things start to feel “normal” again for the last two years. For a lot of people the lift of mask mandates was a huge relief and a sign towards the times we had pre-2020. For others, there was a disparity in their reaction — because the idea of going maskless and mingling as a mass was anxiety-ridden.
There is a bittersweet feeling of going back to some normalcy as it feels like a reason to celebrate, but also we have been so protective of ourselves and the sudden shift is jarring to the nervous system. I am floating in this strange pool of conflict, and my mind and body are having different reactions to the news that broke on March 10th. I have been wearing my mask diligently the last two years and I have been happy to do my part to keep people safe and comfortable. Outside of my angry mask-acne, I have complied because the pandemic was bigger than my skin issues.
Yes, a big part of me is excited to be in a state where masks are no longer needed and to be able to smile openly at those around me — but an equally large part of me has a physical anxiety about being so close to people without masks on. I went nearly two years without getting sick, but as soon as the mask regulations were lifted I was struck with the virus. The week of hell that followed the positive COVID test was the worst pain I have experienced from an illness. My brain became mush, my body ached in every square-inch and I was sleeping between alarms set to remind me to take my medication.
The last two years have given me a case of agoraphobia that I didn’t recognize until I was sitting in a full brewery with people mingling around without masks or caution. I have to settle into this shift and remind myself that this is what we have been striving for. However, if I can keep anyone from feeling the pain I felt at the end of March, I will continue to wear my mask inside crowded areas and public transit.
What I am most nervous about with this shift in mask and vaccine mandates is the rude behaviour that will likely follow. I am scared of people lashing out to businesses that utilize their right to continue to implement mask and vaccine requirements. This has been a very turbulent ride we have been on the last few years, and the last thing that people need is harassment for trying to keep their company open in a way that feels safe to them while navigating these sudden changes.
We saw videos of people around the world when masks first came into play, primarily in North America, where people tried to spit on, fight or call the police on businesses that enforced mask regulations. Two years and a “freedom convoy” later, and my heart isn’t ready to watch any more harassment come out of the woodwork. It feels disgusting to watch how people treat others in situations that could easily have been settled with adult words. This feeling is exemplified when there is a very real possibility of another war across the globe.
Whatever your beliefs surrounding the pandemic, masks, or vaccines — we need to still be kind. There is too much turmoil and grief in this world to be fighting about a piece of fabric covering your face. This is the first step towards the world we were hoping for after the first two weeks the initial lockdown was supposed to end. If someone working in customer service, or even just walking in a store, is wearing a mask — there is no reason to shame, belittle or harass them. We are allowed to make these choices that make us feel safe and healthy, and ease back into this new reality in the pace that feels good for us.
Hold onto your beliefs — they are valid, whatever they may be — but also hold onto compassion, kindness and empathy for those around you. We are all trying our best to navigate multiple “once-in-a-lifetime” events, and hateful treatment is not the way to handle it. This world is bigger than any one individual and it’s time to set the egos aside and be okay with adapting to our changing world.