Finally Having Something to Look Forward To
The refreshing and uncomfortable experience of positive anticipation in the middle of a pandemic
Attempts to increase vaccine accessibility accompanied with the CDC’s (controversial and confusing) updates about recommendations for vaccinated individuals have led many in the US to prep for re-entry into society. Social calendars are beginning to fill up prompting the vaccinated population to reflect on how they want to spend their time with, if the CDC and leading public health experts are correct, fewer safety concerns and limitations. Despite the many challenges to venturing outside — psychological and otherwise, many of us are experiencing the refreshing and slightly uncomfortable experience of finally having something to look forward to.
Optimism can be a scary and dangerous feeling when you’re accustomed to disappointment. And disappointment is likely a mild response to the various ups and downs and accumulated losses associated with the past year. To feel anything but intense skepticism or fear in response to presumed “improvements” associated with a global pandemic that has killed more than 3 million people worldwide can seem precariously naïve.
But according to a recent psychological study on coping during the COVID-19 pandemic, optimism and anticipating positive events seem to be effective tools for coping due to increased positive emotion. With that in mind, optimism isn’t naïve, but a critical component of managing the uncertainty of these chronically stressful times.
If you’ve been following my recent posts, you know that I’ve been focusing on slowing down and learning how to commemorate the small steps forward. While it seems like the world is in a rush to open up despite valid concerns, I’m still committed to taking my time and avoiding any and all pressure to return to a normalcy that doesn’t acknowledge all the collective trauma we’ve endured. My response to this widespread sense of urgency is to ease into optimism by giving myself brief, yet meaningful moments to look forward to with warm anticipation.
Just last week, I was almost brought to tears after making plans with a vaccinated friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. I experienced joyous déjà vu after navigating a busy traffic intersection after traveling to a new part of town — something that used to happen multiple times a day before the pandemic. For now, these small moments are enough to get me to the next moment.