After four years, all of them on staff of The Wire, I am nearing graduation just like all of my fellow seniors. This is an event often referred to as “Commencement.”  Commencement means beginning which is a bit odd because it happens at the end of school. But this year, even more than most, this ending really is a beginning as we move through the pandemic and to the light of the rest of our lives.

 April 13th was in fact the beginning of the way forward as I had my first vaccination appointment, the end in sight. I’m the last one to get vaccinated in my family, as my parents and brother in college all got it weeks prior. All morning I was anxiously excited because I had no expectations of what the experience would be like. I had friends tell me what it was like and about the lines, but this was new for everyone. 

I drove myself to the INOVA Health Center vaccination site on Eisenhower Avenue, and the whole parking lot was filled. There were cones and people with flags waving you to where to park, and volunteers all the way up to the doors telling you where to go and to have your I.D. ready. This started to make me pretty nervous because there were so many people and lines and people telling me where to go. It was fast paced, from the check-in to the shot, which is what my parents both agreed was the biggest surprise for them too.. I went through all  the lines and up to my shot in about 4 minutes, then a volunteer gave me a table number, I went and sat down, got the shot, and that was it. I had to sit and monitor myself for 10 minutes before being allowed to leave, but I was so shocked how painless and easy it was. 

I made sure to shake my arm around on the way back to my car because I saw so many tik toks of people doing it and they said their arm wasn’t sore the next day. Within 3 hours I had a headache and got really tired. Before I went to bed I had also added a fever and chills to the list of symptoms, but by the time I woke up the next morning I was completely fine. None of my friends had any symptoms from either shot, so me getting sick from the first dose did scare me a little. Not scared like I didn’t want to get another dose or that something was wrong, but scared thinking about how bad I might’ve had the actual virus if I had ever gotten it in the past year. 

The three weeks in between doses dragged by, probably because I was so excited to be fully vaccinated. On May 5th I had my appointment for my second dose. The same routine, same lines, so it felt less scary and unknown this time. The only new thing was I had to bring my vaccination card along with my I.D. so both stickers confirming my doses would go on it. I got through the short line, got the dose, and waited my ten minutes again. As I was waiting to be able to leave, it entered my mind that if I was sick after the first dose and most people don’t get sick on that dose and do the second, what was going to happen to me this time? I was feeling very optimistic when I went the whole rest of the day with no symptoms and got to have my Cinco de Mayo Moes for dinner, but the next morning hit me like a truck. Fever, headache, and chills got me all day, so I took off school and slept all day, and after about 3 p.m. I was fine again. 

I am extremely thankful for the health care workers and volunteers for making the process quick and painless. Although I did have a bad case of side effects, in the long run it means nothing that I was sick for a few hours twice. This week, I marked two weeks after my second dose, so I’m considered fully vaccinated. Now, my entire family is fully vaccinated, as are most of my friends.

This year has been a test of so many things, and we pulled through. The connections built and maintained with my friends and family helped me through, and we are more solidly  connected by this crisis than ever before. And because of the vaccine,  I feel safe going to prom and graduation. I cannot wait to see all of you seniors there!

We did it, everyone! It’s time to commence. 

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