“I don’t know about you / But I’m feeling 22 / Everything will be alright if / You keep me next to you,” singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s song 22 played on the car’s radio. The DJ described that the song was perfect to commemorate the new year and welcome everyone to 2022.
We were on our way to Walmart, to get our COVID-19 booster shot at our local pharmacy.
As I filled out the paperwork prior to getting the booster, I caught myself writing 2021 instead of 2022. I immediately corrected myself and wrote “Jan. 2, 2022”. Moments later, the person who was in charge of rendering the shot called out “Laurinne”. First, she asked for my date of birth then proceeded to give me the booster. It was like getting a quick bite from an ant. Afterward, she asked me to take a seat and wait for 15 minutes to see if I get any allergic reactions from the shot.
The 15-minute waiting period gave me time to reflect deeply on what this past year has been like and what the current new year has to offer. The year 2021 was like a rollercoaster ride filled with ups and downs.
Last year, students were given the chance to return to in-person classes after about two years of remote learning. Looking back to 2021, I realized that I embarked on numerous self-discoveries, helping me learn more about myself. I discovered the importance of rebuilding together, staying balanced, practicing self-care, learning to never take opportunities for granted, looking forward to what the future holds, breathing mindfully, driving conscientiously, living in the present moment by attending school-related functions, appreciating other cultures through music and being grateful for people around me amidst the milestones I reach in life.
Now, I also realized that the year 2022 is symbolic of many important moments that would happen later in the year. This year, current seniors will experience many of their “lasts”—last semester of high school, last school dances, last games and many others. However, we seniors will also experience many of our “firsts”—first high school graduation, first moving into college, first time away from home and more.
Towards the end of my 15-minute reflection, I noticed that my thoughts were too centered around the past and the future; I reminisced the past, hoped for the future and slightly ignored about the present. Looking closely, I realize now what truly matters: staying safe by protecting yourself and others amidst COVID-19 and its troublesome variants.
According to the data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. broke several records for its average of new daily COVID-19 cases, with an all-time high of more than 386,000 new infections on Friday, Dec. 31. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) described that the Omicron variant accounted for 22.5% of recent COVID-19 cases in the nation.
Recently, whenever I communicate with friends and classmates through text messages or Zoom calls, they describe instances of family members being in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 or testing positive for the virus. The statistics and stories related to COVID-19 are alarming to me. I’m afraid to go back to remote learning. I’m afraid of my family contracting the virus. I’m afraid to go back to what life was like when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March 2019.
But there is something we can do to help combat the virus and flatten the curve. For those who are eligible, able and willing to, I encourage getting vaccinated or getting the booster for the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC describes that “COVID-19 vaccines are effective and can reduce the risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.”
There is no question that the COVID-19 virus and its variants are still lurking around the corner; it doesn’t discriminate as it can affect anyone. During this new year, let’s make an effort to better protect ourselves and others from the virus. Ultimately, celebrating joy and prosperity for the year 2022 starts with being safe and healthy.