There Is No “When This Is Over”

We’ve been telling ourselves COVID-19 is a story with an end point. Thanks to the Delta variant, it’s just how we live.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
4 min readAug 2, 2021

Kid wearing a mask. Good kid.
By the time he’s grown up, this is going to seem pretty normal. Photo by Lucia Macedo on Unsplash

I got shredded in quarantine. It’s not something you’d notice, looking at me; I could still be shoved comfortably into most lockers. I am not “fit” by anyone’s standards but my own. Still, at some point in the past year, I decided to make my body a place worth living. I’d spent a lifetime finding ways to dissociate — drinking, reading, binge-watching, scrolling Twitter until I found some way to hurt my own feelings — and I wanted to get back inside my own skin.

I started working out a lot. I cooked a lot of lunches with cauliflower in them. I felt myself get stronger, my posture get better, my energy slowly approach normal human levels. When all this was over, I told myself, meaning the end of the pandemic, I would have made tangible improvements. When we got back to normal, back to a post-‘rona life of constant, carefree socializing, I’d walk out into the world as a better person. Possibly a hotter person. I would have used this time.

For a few weeks, at the beginning of July, it seemed like it was about to happen. I went back to New York for the first time in over a year. I saw friends, hung out on restaurant porches and rooftop bars. Then the Delta variant hit, and I realized that the world I’d been promising myself — the one where all this is over, where the pandemic reaches some final, total conclusion — might not exist.

We have to put the masks back on. We might have to go back indoors. We might have to stop seeing each other. When my kid coughs in the night, my mind goes right back to the worst possible scenario. I thought I’d stopped seeing those images in my head, but they might never leave. I’ve been treating the coronavirus like a project, filling the empty space with effort. Yet COVID isn’t a retreat or an event. It’s an era. This isn’t some temporary setback, it’s how we live.

This is about more than the coronavirus. It’s about accepting that some of the damage this country has suffered, over the past few years, is not fixable. Delta is less deadly if you’re vaccinated — but only 49.6% of Americans are vaccinated. We could stop new variants from arising if…

Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.

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