Life After the COVID-19 Vaccine

The Covid-19 virus changed my life on March 13, 2020, when President Trump declared the coronavirus
a national emergency. Trump left the decision of lockdown to each state; 32 out of 50 states decided to
lockdown with New York being the worst affected. Following that announcement, New York City Mayor
Bill De Blasio ordered all senior centers to close until further notice. Life for me became notations in my
daily calendar of “stayed home.” Once a week or every other week the notation would be “walked to
the Post Office” or “went to the supermarket.” The worst notations I made emotionally were of those
seniors, who I knew well, had died from COVID-19.

Clinical trials started in May 2020 and in early December 2020, two vaccines were recommended by the
FDA Advisory Panel for public distribution. I was so elated because now it was a matter of waiting for my
turn to be vaccinated and hopefully discard the several masks I had bought. In January 2021, I received
my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the second in February. After the two week wait for vaccine
efficacy, I felt I could now shed the mask and think of places to visit. However, the CDC (Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention) still requested all vaccinated people to keep the masks on and maintain
6 feet of social distance. When people in the Bronx were beginning to get fully vaccinated, I started to
see many places of activity open. As the days were getting warmer, I would take my camera on walks
and photograph school buses parked in front of the school waiting to pick up the in-person students,
people buying luggage for some kind of travel, and meeting with friends who were also vaccinated. I am a
die-hard Mets fan, but I live near Yankee Stadium. Walking towards the Bronx Terminal Market Mall, I
would pass the Yankee’s Sports Bar and Restaurants full of the people allowed to attend the stadium if
vaccinated or tested for the virus.

I enjoy watching the Oscar Awards every year. In 2021, the Oscars were virtual with nominees,
presenters and guests at the Union Station Los Angeles, CA; last of the great train stations and more
than a transportation hub. Performances were also virtual from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood which 
has been the venue for the Oscars. For me, the pandemic did not take away from the thrill of watching
my selected nominees win.

Being vaccinated continues to give me hope and a new beginning in life. A highlight to that beginning
was when I finally donated blood without fear. It was a good feeling to begin giving the blood
desperately needed. My biggest excitement after the past 1½ years was when the photography class
met at the Pugsley Creek Park in the Bronx for an in-person class instead of seeing each other virtually
on Zoom. As we walked together for the first time in over a year, while photographing the landscape
and nature of the creek, we talked about our personal lives with family and how much we missed
physically being in a class together.

Despite the pandemic affecting our lives, there were many important moments this year. The New York Times asked the senior and junior photography classes to take self-portraits; how we defined self-portrait was up to us. My definition of a self-portrait is an entire human body from head to feet. Through our photography class teacher, we submitted 5 photos with captions, but only one photo would be selected from each class. The selection would appear on Sunday, June 13, 2021, in the Arts & Leisure Section. What a surprise when 3 photos of the senior class were selected and I was one of them.  

What a blessing when on May 13, 2021, abc7 announced Breaking News from the CDC: “Fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors. However, inside buses, airplanes, hospitals, jails, and shelters still required to wear a mask.”  It will take a bit more time to discard masks completely and not stay 6 feet from each other, but I’m willing to wait.

In January 2021, I had the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.  In February 2021, the second dose. 

As the sun goes down and the lights are slowly illuminating the streets, I’m reminded of the phrase, “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” which was coined by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. 

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I dedicated lots of time to the craft of plastic canvas and sometimes escaped into the stories of my DVD library.

I am an avid billiard player and have desperately missed it since the senior centers were closed in March 2020. Shopping at Target, I saw this game that combines billiards with golf. It is not the same as a billiard table, but “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Since the pandemic, my friends and I missed getting together over a meal at a restaurant. After being vaccinated, we enjoyed being together again at the Hibachi Buffet Restaurant at Concourse Plaza Mall in the Bronx.

I’m a die-hard Mets fan, but they play in Queens NY. I do live near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx NY. Their Sports Bar and Restaurants were full of fans who were able to attend opening day if vaccinated or tested for COVID-19. 

Here comes May 2021. Being vaccinated makes a big difference moving forward.

Going about my usual daily activities during the COVID-19 pandemic was not an option. I strategically planned my day according to the CDC guidelines (wearing a mask; staying 6 feet apart from others; sanitizing/washing hands). At the same time, I felt emotionally divided with friends who went about their lives as if there was no pandemic (eating at restaurants mask free; going on lavish vacations; hanging out at bars).

Children playing basketball is always a delight to see on warm days. Although it was not their turn to get the vaccine, several wore their masks to protect others as well as themselves.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr dreamt a change for African American people. Barrack Obama was the first African American who made that dream a reality by holding the highest-ranking position in government--president.  Kamala Harris took it a bit further, she is the first woman of African/Asian descent who became vice president; the second highest-ranking position in government.

In the past, I would donate blood as many times as possible. During covid-19, I feared donating. After 1½ years, I finally donated the blood people needed.

With people getting fully vaccinated, a new park in Manhattan, named “Little Island” located by the Hudson River and W. 14th Street, opened for all to enjoy. Because it is outdoors, everyone felt comfortable being around people who did not wear a mask—most did wear their masks. 

Reflections: The coronavirus lockdown tangled itself into my life. During a time of uncertainty, the Serenity Prayer grounded me. Now, being fully vaccinated, planning ahead feels liberating.

 The dining room light gives the look of the moon while the sun is setting. 

After many months of having photography class virtually, it was exciting to have an in-person class at Pugsley Creek Park in the Bronx.  We were all vaccinated, but some of us wore masks because of the amount of pollen in the air.

Once my friends and I were vaccinated, we drank coffee at one of their homes. The sun, wanting to be part of this beautiful day, shined bright and warm through the window.

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