Life and Health

Can We Be Different in 2022?

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

It is only a few days into 2022 and it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Hopefully omicron is the light at the end of this very long and very dark tunnel. It’s not over yet but a hugely transmissible and relatively less severe variant usually signals that the end is coming to a pandemic, but it seems that omicron is going to go down swinging and try to take as many with it is possible.

Viruses are like parasites; they need to balance being transmissible with being dangerous. If they’re too dangerous and kill their hosts too quickly they don’t have enough time to find a new host and they just die out. Omicron is shaping up to be the more transmissible less dangerous variant that we want. Think of the cold virus or even the flu, hugely transmissible but for the most part relatively innocuous. And with a novel virus you’re going to get it at some point; it’s like all the colds kids pick up their first time in daycare or school. Your immune system has never seen it before, so it’s not prepared. If you got the vaccine, you’re somewhat prepared but vaccines generally cannot be 100% foolproof because all our immune systems behave slightly differently. But the vaccine is like having a trained sniper in your platoon at your disposal instead of just tanks. Therefore, the symptoms are less severe and generally less of an annoyance than if you only have the tanks.

Your immune system is basically broken down into two big parts: innate and specific immunity. Part of innate immunity is all the symptoms you feel like coughing, sneezing, throwing up, diarrhea, etc. These are BIG physical responses to try and rid your body of whatever is invading it. These are the tanks — they just throw everything they have at it and hope something works. Therefore, the symptoms of the cold, flu, COVID, allergies, etc.… are all very similar. It’s your innate immune system trying to rid the body of the offenders without really knowing how to combat it. It’s the tank leveling a house because one bad guy might be in there.

Your specific immunity is the ability for your body to magically (it feels kinda like magic but what is science other than magic that’s real?) remember and direct it’s efforts in a way that acts like a sniper that can shoot through the windows of the house to just get the guy you want without any extra casualties. The vaccines (and previous infections) are training for the snipers. And the more and better snipers you have the less your body needs to use the tanks hence the reason we can have asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

All the things we’ve done in the past two years have been an effort to slow the roll of the virus to preserve the medical systems NOT to stop the virus from making you sick forever. Again, with a novel virus you’re going to get it at some point, it is not a moral failing or reason to feel ashamed. Especially if you’ve been vaccinated (and boosted if appropriate) now that they are widely available in accordance with medical professionals’ advice and recommendations. The vaccines will make you less sick or be asymptomatic, but the reality is you will probably have at least one rumble with COVID over the course of your lifetime. The mask mandates, vaccine recommendations, quarantine rules, etc. have been a way to help ensure that the medical community is able to handle severe COVID infections AS WELL AS ALL the other medical issues that crop up daily. These rules were in place to make sure the hospital, urgent care, primary care physicians, etc… can all be available for you when you need it most. Unfortunately, in many ways we have consistently let them down because people have been too worried about what these steps do to them personally and not the whole and we can talk about the other failings of our “healthcare” system as well but that’s a different topic for a different day.

This (hopefully) last wave may finally be the beginning of the end but the actions we’ve taken up to this point as a society are determining how destructive this wave is going to be and so far, it’s not looking good for our collective soul. A system beaten and aching by almost 2 years is barely hanging on by a thread. People you know and love are going to jobs every day trying to prop up this failing system. We’ve all made choices in the past two years; we’ve all balanced the risk and reward scales to do things and we’re all tired of the balancing act. Pandemic fatigue is a real thing and it started way back in 2020 but here we are in 2022 and I’m not sure what the decisions we make in the next few weeks are going to do to the already battered and bruised system.

And all these injuries to the system have exposed many of the flaws in our society; we can choose to rebuild a better, more sustainable world but when we’re still in the thick of survival mode it can be hard to look even a week into the future and decide how to do things differently. What if we all just took a shared vacation after this? Would a few weeks of rest be such a terrible thing after all we’ve lived through since 2020? Much like some European countries do in July or August for summer holidays but unfortunately our capitalist on steroids society of producing bigger, faster, better, MORE is the complete antithesis to that idea. Here in the US, we barely take the time off our employers give us (if they give us any at all).

Photo by Mariah Krafft on Unsplash

If you can, and you haven’t been forced to use up your time off propping up the failing systems, take time from work and school in 2022. Stay home, sleep in, read books, watch TV, whatever you do that will let the cortisol (stress) hormones that have built up in your system since 2020 start to dissipate. And if you have the ability or power, advocate for others to do the same.

There will still be a lot of cleanup as we make our way through 2022 and beyond but maybe, just maybe, if we can rest a little bit before we remake the system that failed, we can do it with a clear head of what we really need going forward instead of just trying to rebuild the same old $hit we watched crumble right before our very eyes.

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