Can you believe three years ago we were all hunkering down and preparing for the unknown? I had just returned from a funeral in North Carolina, a work trip in Detroit, a play in Brooklyn, and a conference in Washington, D.C. All of those trips and adventures occurred in the first 10 days of the month. When I finally returned to New York, it was time to start taking seriously this mysterious virus that seemed to be coming to America—and quickly.
I don’t know if you all remember making trips to the grocery store to buy toilet paper and canned goods. I bought water and cleaning supplies, masks and gloves, and so many lentils. What exactly was I going to do with red, green, and yellow lentils? But many of us were preparing for the unknown. I debated leaving New York City altogether and staying with family or friends who had homes with yards and more space than my 800-square-foot apartment. The unknown was at once frightening and exhilarating.
As we know, so much has happened in these past three years. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives and their families, friends, and communities will never be the same. So many people have lost jobs (or full industries) and have felt unimaginable financial burdens. Some have even lost their homes and have been forced to move out of state to lands unknown in order to seek relief.
This may be a radical or controversial statement for some, but COVID is still here and very much real. It is still taking lives. It is still complicating people’s ability to gather safely. It is still preventing so many folks from finding gainful employment. And it is still hospitalizing the young and old. Long term COVID is real. I’ve seen the effects, and it has altered lives and trajectories in ways we may not know for years to come.
I am still trying to take COVID seriously by washing my hands, wearing a mask in close quarters, and trying to remember the very real dangers that persist. I know many people are eager to “get back to normal,” but the normal we once knew before 2020 no longer exists. We have been through something enormous, individually and collectively. I don’t know when we will ever be able to fully articulate what we have experienced, endured, or embraced.
So where do we go from here? Let us remember to check in on friends and family who have lost loved ones to COVID. Let us remain vigilant in our sanitary practices. And let us remember that we are all processing the last three years in different ways. I am working on extending grace to others by starting with extending it to myself first.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an Associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”, and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and host of The Blackest Questions podcast at TheGrio.