It’s been about a year since the first coronavirus case was found in Asia.

One year.

I made jokes in the beginning. I thought it was pretty funny that a virus had the same name as a Mexican beer. I never expected things to get this bad. I don’t think any of us did.

And then March came — lockdown, sickness, death, job loss, business closures. Nothing is funny about this virus.

It’s been nine long, hard, devastating months. The world is a completely different place than it was a year ago.

Yet when you step outside, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking everything is fine. That is, until you see the lines to get into a grocery store and see the shuttered restaurants. So many shuttered restaurants.

The past year has been exhausting. I am fully aware that 2021 offers no promises of easier days, but I refuse to let go of the hope that we will see them. These days, hope is all that keeps me going.

They say there is an end in sight. The vaccine is here. People are afraid of it and saying there’s no way they will take it. I get it. I understand fear. I’ve been afraid for nine months now.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about the vaccine, too. However, I’m ready to not be afraid anymore. I’m ready to stop feeling that lump in my chest at 4 p.m. every day when I get a notification from the local news station reporting the numbers of sick and of the dead.

I see this vaccine as a chance to get my life back. Or to start a new one. To maybe get my job back. To hug my friends, family and even strangers again. To play again. To see people’s smiles again. To experience true joy again.

Sign. Me. Up.

I do spend a lot of time these days trying to visualize what the world will look like when this all ends. Will it be a world without restaurants and bars? How will I earn a living? Where will people gather with friends?

Oddly enough, aside from worrying about everyone I love staying safe and healthy, the restaurant industry is one of my biggest concerns. It’s an industry everybody utilizes and nobody thought would ever disappear.

This is an industry I have given more than half my life to. An industry I am madly in love with. An industry I never planned on leaving. Even if my photography were to take off and I didn’t need another job, I would always want to waitress, at least part time.

I can’t figure out if it is terrifying or a little neat to be forced to ponder the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” at age 46.

The short answer right now is vaccinated, employed and free to hug again.

Making it Through is a weekly column by community members on their experiences since the pandemic began. Jen Stillions is a local photographer, hospice volunteer and laid-off waitress from Harry’s Roadhouse.

(1) comment

Jarratt Applewhite

Jen is a treasure. Thanks for having the courage to share your view at this mean time. So hoping to see you on the other side.

Welcome to the discussion.

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