It’s been 413 days since our lockdown countdown began. More than one year has gone by. Life looks completely different than it did back then, but at the same time it looks very much the same.
More than 3 million people are getting vaccinated every day in the US, and that means more people I know personally have received their shots. They’re starting to resume the normal activities they gave up during 2020. Friends and family post joyful pictures of long-awaited reunions. They’re finally starting to see the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel.
Meanwhile, in Ireland, the outlook is bleaker. As of April 2nd, only 18.71 people per 100 people have received their vaccine so far (compared to 47.13 out of 100 people in the US), and Ireland’s residents have been living in a severe lockdown for over 16 grueling weeks. Non-essential retail remains closed, although the government finally declared that children’s shoe stores should re-open after children were admitted to emergency departments with infections from wearing ill-fitting shoes or none at all. The 5km travel restrictions are due to be lifted to allow travel within county limits on April 12, and two vaccinated people can meet indoors at that time as well, but most people won’t see much of a change to restrictions until at least May, when museums, hairdressers, and click-and-collect retail services will likely resume.
Recently, the government changed their needs- and profession-based vaccination priority to age-based. With less than half of the expected vaccine supply arriving to Ireland in Q1 and the government only offering restriction relief for those vaccinated, the Irish people are understandably frustrated. Like me, they’re watching as the US, UK, and Israel continue to ramp up their vaccination efforts, while politicians stand idly by, waiting for more vaccines to arrive. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says that, “By the end of June the vast, vast majority, more than 80 per cent of people, will have been offered the first dose,” but the general public is skeptical of the government’s ability to deliver.
Living here has been really tough lately. As pandemic fatigue sets in and the weather gets nicer, more people are disregarding restrictions. The people I speak to feel worn out or angry, but for me, most days I feel like a human dichotomy. I panic at the thought of leaving the house, but at the same time I feel so cooped up inside most days that I want to scream. I feel so incredibly lonely most days, but at the same time talking to anyone, no matter their relationship to me, feels exhausting.
The light at the end of the tunnel for me right now is our planned trip back to the US over the summer, when I expect I’ll actually receive my vaccine. I’m so looking forward to this trip, when Nora will finally get to meet our loved ones. But at the same time I’m terrified. I’m terrified of traveling such a long distance, on an airplane, without being vaccinated. I’m terrified Nora will hate being on a plane, have a tough time acclimating to the time change, and will be scared of every person she meets. I’m terrified that after so much time, the people we love will have forgotten about us, or just don’t have the same regard for us they once did. I’m also terrified that I won’t want to leave the US when it’s time to go back.
I’m in a weird position right now. I still do not feel at home in Ireland, even though this is the only home Nora has ever know. But I also know I won’t feel at home in the US either. I don’t know where my home is. I haven’t felt settled since June, 2019, and I want to get that feeling back more than anything. If there is one thing I’ve learned from the last year, it’s that I need to look internally for calm and happiness. There are plenty of quotes out there about finding home where you are, and I love that sentiment, but that feels impossible right now. How can I feel at home when I’m scared of everyone? When I can only see my new country within a 5km limit of me? When I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin and my clothes?
For now, I guess there’s nothing else to do besides keep pushing forward. I will count down the days until I can get the fuck off this island, but I’ll also try to keep my expectations around my trip realistic. A lot has changed since I last visited in 2019, and that means a lot of people have changed, myself included. I’ve worked a lot in the last year on finding calm and happiness inside myself, rather than external environments or people. Maybe once I get better at that, I’ll find that feeling of home I’ve been looking for in myself as well.