Underneath the mask

Year-end is a scary thought, and yet, who wouldn’t want this year to be over already?

At the same time, 2021 will be a busy one and perhaps even vague and unpredictable. Nations will be recovering from grief and an economic downturn. E-commerce and remote work will hit the market more than ever because people now have the experience, and businesses realize what they can save on overhead costs. They will follow the footsteps of Millennial entrepreneurs. Plus, indulge in the advantages of staying home with family and pets, driving less, making lunch. Though advantages also come with downsides for others. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you do it right. I’m sure that by the time 2021 hits, you’ll wish you’d made more use of 2020.


Even though I have been prepping myself for a job for months, I’m nervous like never before. I keep telling myself that I’m a social person, but COVID has increased my social anxiety—moreover, the mask did.

I went to Staples to have visa photos taken. The girl was a terrible photographer and didn’t give me the option to choose which photo I liked best. It was also my fault and the fear of getting too close to the counter area. Then, she passed me two photographs showing a white glow on my forehead. She didn’t use flash, so why did I glow like a wannabe saint? Even though I gave her the dimensions, I wasn’t sure how accurate they were. I said nothing and paid the $14. Without looking at the photographs again, I sealed them in the envelope with my renewal application and sent it off. I don’t know what the government will say, but I didn’t care at the time.

What I’m trying to say is: This is unlike me. I wouldn’t have done this ten months ago. But the mask had told me to shut up and back off.


Next, I met my friend for a coffee and a walk. The coffee shop didn’t allow sit-ins and had to deal with customers who walked in with no masks because they had an authority complex. The barista was friendly and chatty but made me a mocha instead of a matcha latte. She gave it to me for free. I usually like to take a quick first sip when I’m handed my matcha latte because often, half-sweetened is not sweet enough. However, I couldn’t take that sip until we’d stepped outside. The matcha latte was fine (and so was the mocha in my other hand). Then, my friend wanted to go into a local craft shop to look for gifts. I found myself taking many sips of both beverages until someone inside the shop waved that it was OK to enter. We put our masks back on, holding our cups that we (practically) couldn’t drink while browsing inside. And there was me holding two cups, making it impossible to look at anything at all.

I’m trying to say that Masks aren’t good for people prone to nervousness. I’m not a mask denier, but masks aren’t good for one’s self-esteem. And when you breathe out 5% “CO2,” you are breathing it right back in. It can’t be good for the brain. Therefore, I feel for anyone working in essential services.

There’s me complaining about bad photographs and not being able to sip my beverage inside a retail shop.


I dreamed about attending a metal concert as if I was in my early twenties again. Small crowded venues often had sweat dripping from the ceiling. It was disgusting, and yet, I miss those days.


I wore my first mask when I travelled to Southeast Asia. There were more scooters than cars. Everyone that wore a mask was either protecting themselves from exhaust fumes or the UV. As unhygienic as everything was, I doubted it was to protect themselves from viruses.


Anyway, if you’ve had panic attacks, you’ll know how important it is to breathe regularly, deeply and slowly. One breath fills your entire chest; the next one fills your belly.


When 2021 hits, you should look forward to breathing normally again. For now, your safest bet is to stay home.

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