When the pandemic started just over a year ago, I started sanitizing my Amazon packages. I’d hold my breath as I pried them open, as if I were removing a mouse from a mouse trap. Going to the grocery store also made me uncomfortable. Every time I walked into Mehuron’s, I’d take a minute to slip my hands into disposable plastic gloves and scour the handle of my shopping cart with a wet wipe.

Going to the gym? Forget about it. I turned to home workouts, although those workouts usually resulted in me lying on my yoga-mat adorned living room floor, phone in hand, doom scrolling though stories of Italians hospitalized with COVID. There was so much we didn’t know back then. There was so much to lose.

Then, it happened. My friend got COVID in April, 2020. She was the first person I knew with a real case. She lives in New York City. She’d gotten it from her boyfriend, who’d gotten it from his roommate. We talked on the phone while she had it. “It’s awful,” she told me. “My back hurts.”

On the contrary, another friend told me she’d had COVID in early March and never realized it. She’d felt a little off, a little dizzy, but had few other symptoms and went on with her life as usual. “I was probably a super spreader,” she told me, after taking a COVID antibody test that came back positive.

Through my friends’ stories, I got to know the virus. Strangely, they brought me comfort. The virus was still a menace, but no longer a mystery. I stopped Lysol-bombing Amazon. packages.

However, it wasn’t until my parents got vaccinated that real relief came to me. That had always been my biggest concern: infecting them. And with each vaccination story I hear, my sense of hope and freedom only grows.

I can’t help but equate my budding hope with the arrival of spring. The days are longer, warmer and brighter, both in my external surroundings and my subconscious mind. Both vaccination stories and bird songs ring with the promise of life. Things are not in full bloom yet, but they’re getting there. I can feel it in the air.