By Emily McGee
Masks — the things that before 2020 were only routine to health professionals, but, because
of the current pandemic, have become everyone’s new “normal.”
Masks are essential for the protection of everyone, but that also comes with a cost. In our daily lives, we have shifted from smiling at strangers that pass us to attempting to smile through a mask and hoping that the receiver will understand. They have become what separates us.
I understand that some parts are really hard to cope with. What’s terrifying is not knowing how much longer we will have to be this way because none of us prepared for a global pandemic. Our lives are far from predictable.
None of us are ecstatic to wear masks. Some common complaints include: “They give us ‘maskne,’” (acne caused by wearing a mask), “They can be hard to breathe through during extraneous activities” or “They are uncomfortable.”
Nothing about this past year was normal, especially the arguments over the validity of facial coverings, but we can’t change what has happened. Even so, others have found ways to thrive from wearing them. You know, those similar to myself who don’t always love their appearance and feel like masks help to be more gentle with ourselves.
Masks are unquestionably important, whether you want to admit it or not. My mother is one of the most important people in my life, and I truly do not know where I would be in life if not for her. If you look past her loving exterior, you will see that she is currently experiencing yet another battle with breast cancer. It’s not something you notice when first meeting her — and she likes it that way. I wear my mask for her and everyone else that could be going through similar afflictions.
The reality is that we may never know who is fighting a battle when crossing their path for a split second. Wearing a mask is a decision that we all make every day, so I urge you to take an extra second of your busy life to think about the people around you who may not be able to survive the coronavirus without one.
When I think about the past year, all I seem to reflect on are the important people in my life who have gotten lost in the background. I wear my mask for my best friends, the ones that have been stuck in their homes — the ones whose families are nervous to go out into the world again.
I put on my mask every morning for my family and relatives, who I have not physically spent time with since Christmas 2019. One of my brothers lives across the country in California, and I have not seen him since December 2019. The only way that I can contact those I love is through a screen.
There comes a point where talking through a screen becomes suffocating because you know that it is as close as you will get for a while. I wear my mask for the hopes that I can see them when this has all died down.
Sometimes I find myself daydreaming about what could have been, the places I could have visited, the life I could have lived if none of this had ever happened.
I think about spring break during my senior year of high school, the once-in-a-lifetime concert that I was so close to attending and the family I could have traveled to see. Yet, the key phrase is: “…if none of this had ever happened.” The reality is that it did happen, and it is still a very real thing that has continued to take a toll on a vast amount of individuals. I wear my
mask for the sole reason that if I do, perhaps life can move that much closer to pre-pandemic times. Maybe it will take months or years to get back to what my life once was, but at least I can say I did everything I could to make it possible.
When we look back on these years, perhaps some of the most strenuous years of our lives, I hope we will reflect on all that we experienced: The days that felt neverending, the exhaustion, the strength and the grace we gave ourselves.
I hope you can genuinely say that you did your part and wore your mask be- cause I know I will be able to.