I want to be selfish

18 months into a now-permanent pandemic, not caring about other people sure seems enticing.

I want to be selfish
Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado / Unsplash

In my pettier moments in 2020, I felt envious of anyone with a house. I was stuck paying New York City rent to stay inside without enjoying New York City, while friends in Southern suburbs had actual space to hunker down. Confined to an apartment, single and alone, I resented anyone with a partner, dog, or more outdoor space than a tiny fire escape.

This is shitty behavior, and I'm not proud of it. I objectively had it very good. Both of my roommates had gone to their parents' houses, so I didn't have to share the small space with anyone else. I was let go from my job immediately, so I got unemployment checks while other friends went to jobs at schools or hospitals. A few of my extended family members got covid but recovered; my one relative who died from the virus was a cousin of my mother's whom I'd never met. I have friends in my neighborhood with whom I could form a supportive quarantine bubble. I am so much luckier than so many people.

But I was still terrified and stressed for most of the year, and I was horrifically anxious about the election, and I did have a devastating death in the family, and I did hit the "pandemic wall" in the new year and I was impacted by watching a coup live, and I did think that it would be nice after all of that to have a fun summer.

meme that typically shows George Constanza lying in a hospital bed with the caption "This was supposed to be the Summer of George." The caption has been changed to read "This was supposed to be the summer of achieving some modicum of catharsis."

I saw my summer as a sexy, low-lit movie montage. In one scene I'm dancing in some big bacchanalia (my makeup is gorgeous, the outfit is bangin, and I am competent at dancing, because it's a fantasy). In other scenes I go on great dates with beautiful men and women. I fly to Florida, then LA. I spend time on the beach and in the mountains. I dye my hair, hit the gym, buy new clothes, make Megan Thee Stallion proud. I am carefree.

For a while, those goals felt achievable! I have gone on dates, some great, some awful, some mediocre. I have gone out dancing once. I've gotten a couple new outfits. I have a beach trip planned. But partying is starting to feel more like striking up the band on the Titanic. I can no longer avert my gaze from stories about the Delta variant or pretend that we're not all about to go into another lockdown. But I wanna.

My stupid baby brain says that I've suffered enough and I deserve to have fun. But I know that I need to be soberly studying the current safety recommendations to protect those who can't get vaccinated, which will likely involve making some sacrifices again. But it's PRETTY FUCKING ANNOYING that there are some people out there who have staunchly refused to make any sacrifices at any point so far, which is the only reason we're in this position again. I stayed in my small apartment and wore my mask every time I was out in the world and had breakouts for months because of it. I got covid tests after any situation that was particularly crowded. I signed up for the vaccine the first day it was available to me and got my first shot a week after it was announced that my age group could. And there are people who gave up nothing. They didn't wear their masks. They travelled cavalierly. They went to parties and concerts. They won't get the vaccine. Now I have to worry about eating indoors again because they suck?

"It's not fair!" my brain screams, correctly but fruitlessly. It seems like their way is a lot easier. I try to live my life as ethically as possibly, but it makes everything a thousand times harder. Fast fashion is cruel but convenient. Gig economy behemoths like Grubhub and Uber both exploit their workers but could make my life easier. Amazon is pure evil but does have some great stuff on its streaming service. We live in a collapsing capitalist hellscape, and I wish I could just ignore that and vibe, but I'm reminded of how badly that ethos is working out for us every time I see a new part of the world literally engulfed in flames because a few corporations have quite literally murdered our planet.

I am capable of trying harder. Someone has to be a grownup in this situation. I know that life isn't fair and sometimes you have to give up your own personal wants for the greater good. But boy, is it tempting to consider living like the people who refuse to do so, ever! We can't seem to get through to them, so we could always try enjoying ourselves as much as them. Except that that plan would just make everything worse.

I think the only strategy is keeping your eyes on your own paper. I cannot think about the anti-vaxxers going on vacations right now or my brain will boil and I will begin to cry tears of blood. If it comes to that – and it seems like it will – I can go into another lockdown and make do with my friends and my little fire escape. I can count my own blessings, of which there are many. It sucks. I hate it. But I know it's the right thing to do, which matters more than me having a good time.

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