Susan speaks about scoring a stray vaccine appointment at a CVS for her daughter with the enthusiasm a rookie astronaut might use to speak about getting the last spot on a moon mission.
It’s understandable—the 44-year-old spent weeks searching for a vaccine appointment for her daughter, a teenager who has a qualifying health condition. Every day she scoured multiple websites, searching for an elusive Southern California vaccine appointment.
At last, sweet success! Her daughter will receive the vaccine this week. And her husband, who works in the food industry, was vaccinated last month. The family lost relatives to the virus, and has been anxiously awaiting the protection of the vaccine—all four, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, significantly reduce the likelihood of severe illness and death from coronavirus—so seeing her loved ones vaccinated is a huge relief.
But come on, isn’t she also just a little bit…jealous?
“Absolutely!” Susan says with a laugh. She’s not eligible yet (all adults over 16 will be eligible in California starting April 15), so for now she just has to wait. Hundreds of millions of Americans know exactly how she feels. It almost feels like the closer we get to mass vaccine eligibility, the slower time moves, warping, like we’re runners sprinting toward a destination that is getting closer and closer but is still not quite in reach.
We have every reason to be excited—in many states, vaccination dates are moving up. Sixteen percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated, and the Biden administration has pledged to make vaccinations available to all by May 1. We’re seeing grandparents safely hugging their grandchildren for the first time, service workers feeling more protected at their jobs, and people with conditions like asthma able to live without constant fear. Hope is palpable. But so is FOMO—the fear of missing out.
The pandemic isn’t over: Cases are still rising, and public health experts are clear that it is not yet time to stop social distancing. But the end is in sight. It feels like the whole country is just a few periods away from being let out for summer vacation. Every moment brings us closer to vaccines being made available to every American adult who wants one. It’s bliss. It’s joy. It’s torture.
“I was getting really down hearing how everyone I knew had had at least their first shot,” says Jacquie, a 45-year-old living in Michigan. She’s barely exaggerating—she’s a cancer survivor, so she thought she might get slightly early eligibility, but she’s watched as her parents, her husband’s parents, her sister, her brother-in-law, her sister-in-law, and her husband, all got their first shots. Finally, last weekend, she got it—a coveted Pfizer shot, straight to the upper arm. “Now I just anxiously await them to email my invite for my second,” she says. “Then it’s happy dancing in the streets!”
Some of us are destined to watch the happy street dancing from a window. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous,” says Caroline, a 25-year-old American living in London. She’s not upset that she has to wait—she feels lucky to work from home and have no underlying conditions—and she doesn’t begrudge anyone who has been vaccinated. “I love that they are getting the vaccine!” she says. “I know that every person vaccinated is one step closer to a safer and more normal world for us to return to.”
But the wait is still painful. Caroline and her husband married last year, at a small ceremony that her parents couldn’t attend. Thankfully, her parents have now been vaccinated—but living in the U.K., she’s not expecting to receive the shot until late summer. Somehow it seems like most of her peers have gotten shots, one way or another. “I am getting a little frustrated with so many people I’ve seen who haven’t taken the pandemic seriously, then turn around and seem to be some of the first in line for the vaccine,” she confesses. She’s not the only one. There’s nothing like watching people who partied their way through the pandemic waltz into vaccination sites with super-iffy reasons to make you wonder if you believe in at least Lil Nas’s version of hell.
The thing is, our minds are playing tricks on us—the closeness of the vaccine really isn’t an illusion; we really are almost there. If you’ve made it this far following most of the rules, doing your best to keep yourself and others safe, that’s a mammoth accomplishment. But if you give up now, it’s like taking an ocean liner across the Atlantic and then throwing yourself into the water in front of the Statue of Liberty instead of waiting for the ship to dock. (Actually, a transatlantic crossing takes about a week, so it would be the equivalent of doing this after 55 ocean crossings.)
“I wish there was a way that I could be vaccinated too, just so you know that the whole family unit is done and wrapped up in a bow,” says Susan. “But it’s okay. I’ll just continue doing what I’m doing.”
People have compared the final days of waiting for the vaccine to standing in line for a Disneyland ride or trying to get tickets to a One Direction concert or getting your first tattoo. There’s a sense of wonder in the air—gratitude, and anticipation, and awe in the face of science. Soon the vaccine will be widely available, and we’ll have new fears and anxieties, like the fact that a wide swath of Americans, including 49% of Republican men, say they don’t plan to get vaccinated.
But until then, we can keep tasting the sweet, intoxicating, envy-tinged nectar of hope.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
Originally Appeared on Glamour