When the sore throat and the stuffy nose came on, I thought I was done for. I’d contracted COVID-19 once up until this point — just this past summer — and assumed this was number two. I started arranging to cancel plans and skip classes but did not receive a positive COVID-19 test to confirm my suspicions. After depleting my entire stash of COVID-19 tests, avoiding people and still testing negative, I had no idea what was going on. Then I remembered that we all used to get sick long before this whole mess started.
The pandemic has taken a toll on us in countless ways, and I haven’t noticed its effect on perceiving the common cold or a bad case of allergies until now. Because our brains have been completely rewired, these symptoms are a red flag and can cause a lot of fear. On the other hand, handling this worldwide issue as one team increased sympathy and care in treating illnesses — emotionally as well as physically.
Back in my grade school days, I suffered through a lot of modern COVID-19 symptoms to avoid missing class without considering the safety of my classmates or my own limits. Now, since the pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of rest, recovery and avoiding contact, I felt fine taking a day off from school.
My professors also all shared a common response to my absence: Don’t worry about missing class and just focus on getting better. This acceptance of being sick as a very real and very serious excuse will not only reduce infections but will also decrease the stigma and stress around calling in sick.
In my recovery from the cold, I’ve worn a mask when close to others, which I’d never done before the pandemic. This culture of mask-wearing might have started from necessity, but it shows courtesy for the health of others. On the individual end, as well, good habits such as constant hand-washing and not touching your face have made the probability of infection much lower.
While COVID-19 fostered a (certainly very rational) fear of getting sick, it has also made us more accepting and careful in the face of any malady; in this era, we’ve learned to demonstrate more empathy and compassion toward others. As much as the sniffles suck, it feels good to know that more people now than ever are hoping for my speedy recovery.