Essays

COVID-19 as a Portal: How Contracting the Delta Variant Turned “Hot Girl Summer” into a Homecoming

Looking out at the tall, serene trees at my favorite local park, I was sitting in my car when I got the news. I quickly scrolled through my Kaiser app. The words, “Your COVID 19 PCR test result was POSITIVE,” struck me as if I had been dumped in ice water; my breath ripped from me. A moment earlier, I was about to play in the grass with my 10-month old, and now, my mind was racing, wondering if my unvaccinated child would survive this. Simultaneously, I lamented, knowing I would lose my “hard-to-get” one-night stint at Palm Springs with my homegirl that weekend. We planned to micro-dose on mushrooms. I was looking forward to the much-needed medicine of sisterhood and the opportunity for a spiritual epiphany. But in one significant moment, the Universe took me on a hard right into uncertainty. 

And I was vaccinated.

Coronavirus cases among the fully vaccinated — so-called “breakthrough” Covid cases — are still seen among those who have had the two-dose vaccine. Preliminary data in Israel, published in July, 2021, found that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine (which I received) was waning in effectiveness. It seemed the vaccine was only 16% effective against symptomatic infection for those individuals who had two doses of the shot in January, 2021. As a healthcare professional, I was one of the first to receive the vaccine in January. But for people that had received two doses by April, the efficacy rate (against symptomatic infection) stood at 79%. 1

But after more than a year of practicing social distancing, I didn’t want to perreo sola anymore. I yearned for a hot girl summer like everyone else. I was 10 months postpartum, I was working out hard and wanted to show off my results. I also wanted so badly to reconnect with my colorful friends over brunch, mimosas, and sexy Latin Caribbean beats. I felt like I was in my 20s, just emerging from an exhausting and intense spring semester, and I was in HEAT for some delicious summer fun. At the same time, I was in the season of expanding and growing as a healer but still suffering from imposter syndrome. 

I frantically went through the motions to ensure my family’s safety. We took our baby to the ER that night for a rapid test only to find out he was miraculously negative. My partner and I wore N-95 masks for the next 10 days, hoping our baby wouldn’t contract the virus. During those initial days, I felt enraged and went through the stages of grief. At first, I was in denial. I thought I could still go on those trips. So many thoughts raced through my mind– I wanted to blame my partner for bringing the virus into our home. Though I knew it was irrational, I felt resentful of my role as primary caretaker. After all, as a woman of color, it was my inherent role. It’s in my generational DNA. But I was sick and tired of it. I wanted what was left of my remaining baby bonding time to dance, play, and laugh with the world. 

Once I let my inner child tantrum and rage for a day or two, the storm passed. When I finally came to, my objective higher self arrived to logically assess the situation. Of course, it didn’t make sense to go on those trips. It’s immoral to put others at risk for the sake of one’s own pleasure, as the thought of it was in direct contradiction to my values as a Marxist-feminist. And so, with my younger self still pouting, I canceled the rest of summer. 

I allowed my body to process the emotions and virus coursing through me as I searched for a silver lining. What was the lesson in all of this? I meditated, reflected, and sought counsel from my ancestors and guides. All summer (and all pandemic year, really), I had been struggling to nail down my niche, my medicine. I had ideas, but I lacked action. I was fearful. The usual symphony often came on, “I’m not a real healer. I don’t have enough manual skills. No one’s going to take me seriously.” Then one day, as I tossed and turned with my thoughts, it dawned on me. 

What if COVID-19 was a portal? A message from my guides forcing me to skrrrt full stop. “Stay in the slow lane, Anak,” I felt them say. And for a while I knew that, collectively, the Universe had been holding up a mirror, forcing society to ask itself, is this the world you really want? 

Contracting the delta variant while vaccinated forced me to reflect on my life in a way that I wasn’t able to during the pandemic. As a healthcare professional, I was expected to show up five days a week because it wasn’t possible for me to work from home. Now that I had this rare free time off and the world was open, my ego wanted to party and pretend like everything was back to normal. How foolish. Life will never be back to normal. COVID-19 is a portal for people to decide whether or not we will allow neoliberal capitalism to continue plundering the earth’s resources, driving the climate crisis and demoralizing workers; or engage in revolutionary change. As much as we want to, this isn’t a time to numb out and pretend we don’t see it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021. In a year when millions lost their jobs, many also switched career paths, launched their own businesses, quit without set plans, or left the workforce altogether. There’s no one reason for all the change. But all of it contributed to workers reevaluating, reprioritizing, and reflecting on what they do. It was an opportunity for a lot of people to reconsider what they wanted and expected from their jobs. And similarly, me too.

My ancestors and guides called me home earlier than usual this summer. They begged me not to rush into consuming experiences that living in a capitalist-imperialist power often seduces us into, but to take a more complex look at what needs to change. In my micro-universe, that meant I was gifted with isolated time to take action. And so, with renewed gratitude, I took the rest of my time off to retreat into the spiritual cave that was my mind and took concrete steps to create. I believe this is the same for all of us. This has BEEN the season to uproot and weed out the rotten- and not be swayed by the cultural distractions. Instead, like my ancestors implore me to do, I walk through the portal and carve out creative ways to hand-craft medicine for the new world. Push back against capitalists who aim to stifle your holism. Sow the seeds of revolutionary change in the belly of the beast, in the ways that you embody your inner healing and with your community.

  1. Zimmer, Carl. “Israeli Data Suggests Possible Waning in Effectiveness of Pfizer Vaccine.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 July 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/23/science/covid-vaccine-israel-pfizer.html.

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