As of Saturday afternoon, I'm fully vaccinated against Covid-19. When this pandemic began, I couldn't wait for the day I'd be able to write those words. It's hard to describe how it feels to have got to that place, simultaneously so quickly and so slowly.
It's not without its side effects.
Yesterday (Sunday), was a complete write-off for me. I had sore muscles and my brain felt hazy, I couldn't focus on anything for long periods of time. But today I'm fine so I get to sit here and ramble on about it a bit.
I am so happy to be fully vaccinated and so proud of my body for the way it put up a fight yesterday. It did exactly what it was meant to do. The sore muscles and the hazy brain were not just a good sign - they were also totally worth it.
Some will call this propaganda, will email me about how I'm in "Cindy's pocket" (spare me, I batch delete that kind of crap), but none of that matters. Thirty years from now, I hope to still be around so that, when we talk about the Covid-19 pandemic of the 2020s as a period in history, I can tell my grandchildren that I did my bit, that I looked beyond my own belly button and worked for the greater good. That I acted based on empathy for others, and did what I could to protect those around me. That I knew the vaccine carried some risk but I felt like the risk was worth taking. Luckily for me, it was just a day of feeling rough, but I knew there was a tiny chance it could be worse, and I accepted it to keep others safe, because that's a pretty basic tradeoff for the beauty of living in a society.
Also, as someone with a scarred lung from a childhood illness, I want to do whatever it takes to ensure I don't end up on a ventilator. My chances of ending up with Covid in ICU are, as of this weekend, very little. A sore body for a day feels like a small price to pay for that.
That wasn't the biggest side-effect, though. Right after the vaccine, I got sent into a room with other newly-vaxxed people, all masked up and sitting 2m apart from each other. We sat there for 15 minutes to watch out for adverse reactions before we were, one by one, told we could go home.
As I sat there for that quarter of an hour, breathing into my mask, in a sterile looking room, I got an overwhelming feeling of hope.
That room felt to me like a very, very, very early departure gate for a flight home to see my family, the vaccine the very early stage of the check-in process that will eventually make me travel towards them. In a way, it felt like my journey towards my loved ones began on Saturday, not at Auckland International Airport, where it usually starts, but in that room after the vaccine.
I haven't hugged my family, who all live on the opposite side of the world, since July 2019, when we hugged at the airport as they dropped me off, and promised to see each other next summer. A promise I could never imagine I would not fulfil.
My daughter was half the age she is now and has since grown up seeing her relatives only through small screens, her breakfast time during their dinner and vice-versa. I have had vivid dreams where I can swear I can smell my beautiful grandma's hair as I hug her and I have lived every day fighting the fear that that won't happen again.
Until last Saturday. Sitting in that waiting room, I felt like I was finally on my way home. The already long journey (usually 36 or so very exhausting hours) will be even longer - many months-long, I suspect. But at least it has begun.
This vaccine is the closest I've been to home, the closest I've felt to hope that I get to hug my family again. It felt like progress, like a way out of the limbo so many of us have been in since the pandemic began.
Some of us are immigrants (or expats, if we're posh) with our family overseas, others are Kiwis in New Zealand who have loved ones in other countries. Regardless of our postcode or immigration status, most of us have been kept apart from people we love during the pandemic. On a personal level, this felt like the beginning of the end of this separation.
I don't know when - and I accept that it might be some time - but for the first time in more than a year and a half I feel something I thought I'd lost: I feel hope.
Mum, I'm coming home.
Where to get a vaccination in Auckland - without a booking