There’s no easy way to say what I’m about to, so I’ll just blurt it out.
I had COVID-19.
There, I said it. Now, it’s out in the open.
The entire world now knows that I — the student-journalist who has spent nearly half of this God forsaken year covering the pandemic — contracted the very disease that has sent the world into an endless tailspin.
And you know what? If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone.
I wore my mask in public spaces. I kept my circle small, and I was never around more than 10 people at a time.
But that obviously didn’t stop me from getting sick.
A friend of mine, who I saw only once for less than an hour since moving back to Oxford, tested positive. I started showing symptoms about a week later.
She’s not to blame for my sickness. Yes, she could have exposed me to the coronavirus. But I could have also been exposed at Kroger, the gas station or even walking down the street.
There’s truly no one to blame, and no one person should be forced to carry that blame either.
Still, after I got my positive test result, I was angry.
I was angry at the universe for my predicament, but mostly, I was angry with myself. I had spent the better part of the last six months covering the pandemic and its effects on Miami, and in the blink of an eye, I became a number in the unknown blob of people who were making Oxford more dangerous by the day.
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I basically began questioning my every move.
Did I do my best to prevent myself from getting sick? Would my roommates all get sick because of me? How many people did I unknowingly expose?
As the internal questions mounted, so did the shame and guilt. The voice in my head told me I was dirty, that having this virus made me inherently unclean. I felt like a burden on my roommates, who had to enter quarantine and bring me meals during my isolation period.
But one day, in the middle of isolation, I had finally had enough. I was tired of moping around my bedroom and feeling bad for myself.
Internalizing the shame I was feeling would only make my life worse. I already got COVID, and I couldn’t change that fact. Carrying the weight of my own shame about being sick was no longer something I could do.
So, I let it go.
I let go of the feelings of uncleanliness, of the doubts and the questioning. My reality was a period of coronavirus isolation. And that was OK.
And I’m not saying it’s OK for people to host and attend large gatherings. (Seriously, stop doing that. It’s gross. Ew.)
But when you follow the guidelines as best you can and still end up getting sick, it's more than OK to grant yourself the grace to rise above the feelings of self-doubt.
I will be the first to admit I didn’t follow the CDC’s guidelines perfectly. I mean, I got the coronavirus after all.
But I am confident that I always tried my best to stay safe.
And in a pandemic, isn’t that all we can ask for?