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CNN  — 

As one reader put it, “Covid hitting the US was like pushing a big pause button.” Now, nearly half of all adults in America have received at least one dose of a vaccine and nearly 30% is fully vaccinated. After over a year filled with fear, delayed plans and loss, the news is making many people feel hopeful they might soon be pressing play on life.

People still have to take precautions given the spread of more transmissible forms of the virus, experts warn, but the outlook for this summer looks good.

We asked readers to share what they were most looking forward to doing as the country begins to open up – and how the pandemic has affected their lives.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life pre-pandemic, where family members under the same roof seemed like passing ships in the night, there was some joy in having the time to talk or enjoy a meal together. As Carman Thibodeaux of Round Hill, Virginia put it “I hope and think that this has brought my family closer and able to handle most anything.”

But on the other side was the disappointment in finding out how ideologically distant you were from someone close to you. One reader from Chicago wrote, “It drew some of us closer and others further apart. For those of us who grew apart I don’t see how we can reconcile our differences when you begin to see blatant disregard for public safety measures and the well-being of your community.”

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Still, there is excitement to finally experience things like holding a new grandchild in your arms, boarding a plane, putting on lipstick – you know, that others will be able to see – and going to a baseball game. A few are longing to return to volunteer work. Among them: Theresa who lives in Arlington, Virginia, and used to volunteer at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with her therapy dog, Boswell.

For many, the country beginning to open up and vaccinations becoming more widely available is bittersweet. Thoughts of friends, loved ones – and even the millions who were strangers – who died of Covid-19 before they could see this day, are not lost. The magnitude of the loss has been felt so deeply that readers hoped that in some ways nobody ever returns to how life was for many: always on the go with little time to enjoy moments and people we shouldn’t take for granted.

Here are some of the responses we received. They have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

Getting on a plane without fear

I just got my first dose of the vaccine, and I must admit that I had tears in my eyes. It’s been a year of trying to keep myself and my family safe, while working in an office as an “essential worker.” Six months of trying to keep my young adult son with asthma safe from people who refused to follow basic precautions (he passed away in September at 20 years old from anoxic brain trauma due to an asthma attack anyway). A year of not being able to fully hug my little grandson. A year of seeing how truly selfish and/or ignorant so many in America are. This has been the longest, most grueling year of my life.

I’m looking forward to being able to go to my daughter’s house to fully hug the little ones. I’m looking forward to being able to get on a plane without fear to visit my youngest daughter who is in grad school across the country. I’m looking forward to being able to simply shake my head at people who have convinced themselves that the over 560,000 dead people in our country would have died anyway and/or didn’t really die of Covid, instead of being worried that their lack of knowledge puts me and my family in danger. There will be a new normal, but at least we will get back some semblance of it, and I look forward to all that means.

Julie S., Cleveland, Ohio

Seeing my children and grandchild again

I had never thought of going to the grocery store, or even walking down the street safely, as a privilege … as something that could be lost. I could not have imagined not seeing my children for a year. What this pandemic has taught me is that the simple things in life, the small pleasures, even annoying tasks like standing in line in a store are fragile and can be gone in an instant. People in war-torn countries know this. Despite the high level of violence in this country, many of us, including myself, lived in a bubble of normalcy. Our worlds did not include these kinds of losses. We just read about them in the news. That is privilege.

Having had just the smallest experience of having my everyday life as I had known it torn from me, has deepened me, deepened my sense of connection to others. It’s ironic because I have been isolated in my house with my disabled, bedridden mother for the last year. I will make a point of reaching out more to help.

When the pandemic is over, I want to see my children and grandchild again. We have lost a year of hugs and dinners, of doing things together, being with each other that we will never get back. How precious, how incredibly sweet, it will be to see them again. I also want to walk along the beach, in a forest again. As the poet Rumi said, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again. ” I intend to kiss the ground of the places I have missed and have been longing for. And since my real home is in the hearts of those I love, I will be going to be with them and cherish them. Soon, I hope. Soon.

Renee Aubuchon, California

I hope that we never take for granted the little things again

I hope that in the future we never take for granted the little things again like crowded subway cars, handshakes, and embracing loved ones. Once it is safe, I plan to travel internationally more … something I have put off due to money, work, and family obligations. The pandemic has shown me that we cannot put off things we want to do because we may never get another chance to do so.

Lauren B, Staten Island, New York

‘It’s time to fly – literally and figuratively’

First and foremost, travel. We live out here where the next nearest town (of any significance) is at least 100 miles away. So now that we’ve had both shots, it’s time to fly – literally and figuratively. We need to get out of here, to see something other than snow, snow, and – yeah, snow. And there are those herds of pronghorns, strolling along. They look so serene and happy – in the snow. Florida, anyone?

Steven Dinero, Rawlins, Wyoming

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Going to a restaurant with my friends … running around on a Saturday doing errands with my kids

I’m looking forward to things like going to a restaurant with my friends again, traveling to see family, and even the little, simple things that I didn’t think I would miss, but I do. Things like, running around on a Saturday doing errands with my kids and then midway through the afternoon, we’d spontaneously go to lunch and end up making it fun and special. The pandemic brought our family closer together, as my husband used to travel a lot for his job. The pandemic also made my husband and I understand more about what our special needs child goes through on a typical school day, and we appreciate how much his school does for him and the other students to accommodate. We have a better understanding of how to help and coach him. It made us slow down and be more patient. Now that we’re slowly being lifted out of this chapter in history, the fear and panic is subsiding and I’m sure this will open our minds and hearts to realize more blessings in the coming months. I’m looking forward to that too.

Nan Z.

Enjoying a cookout with friends and our child running and playing with other kids

More than anything, we are excited for our child to enjoy time with other children. It has been a difficult year mostly avoiding all the trips and playdates we had planned for him. Our child is extremely social and any time he sees another child his age he runs as fast as his little legs will take him towards them before we pull him away. He’s obviously too young to understand what’s going on, but it has been heartbreaking preventing him from enjoying playing with other children. It’s a reality we couldn’t have fathomed a year ago when we were still waiting for his first steps and his transition into toddlerhood. But hope is on the horizon. My wife is vaccinated and I’m on every list and app imaginable to get mine as soon as I’m available and then we’ll spend as much time as possible researching how to let our child have fun again until a vaccine for the young is authorized.

As tough as this has all been on us adults (and it has been tough), it is even more difficult for our kids who are going to grow up in a whole new world. Much like how I see my childhood before and after 9/11, so too will the younger generation measure Covid-19. My family has been lucky and blessed because we have avoided the worst this pandemic has offered. My vulnerable family members are now vaccinated, which is a huge relief.

I had to switch jobs after being initially laid off back in May of 2020. I think we’re going to make it to the other side of this in good shape and we are so thankful. Now we’re just looking forward to a nice cookout with friends and watching our child be free to run and play with the neighborhood kids. Something so normal has felt so unobtainable for too long. We’ll never take such innocent moments for granted again, that’s for sure. From our brave new post-Covid world to yours.

Mike W., Cincinnati, Ohio

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I want my daughter to worry about kid things again

I am looking forward to my daughter and I being able to see our loved ones without worrying about making them sick or getting sick. I’m looking forward to my daughter being able to laugh with her friends and worry about kid things, instead of a global pandemic. I’m looking forward to traveling, applying for a new job, being spontaneous without packing sanitizer, masks, wipes and worrying about the number of Covid cases in an area. I am also looking forward to not wearing a mask and being able to smile at people again.

Dee M., New Jersey

There’s still a knot in my chest

I hope businesses, schools and large events will put together some sort of “vaccination proof” card or app that can be used to do things like concerts, festivals and gatherings. I honestly don’t trust people to self-report. The pandemic has made me a lot more wary and hypervigilant about other people’s actions, including friends and family. The anxious and depressed knot in my chest from March 2020 has never really gone away, even with therapy, and I suspect it’s just going to be a permanent thing I will have to work with or around.

Krista, Woburn, Massachusetts

May we remember those who died – and may their memories be a blessing

In the beginning I was so scared and lonely. I couldn’t buy basic needed items or see anyone. I didn’t go anywhere. But now I realize so many people were way worse off than I was – and still are. I feel so privileged and a little weird sharing what I miss or what I hope for. I want all the people who died to be alive. Which isn’t possible. So may we remember them and may their memories be a blessing. May families be together, to hug, to share a meal, to drive each other to their appointments.

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I miss my daughter. She lives in North Carolina and I am in California. I was supposed to visit her last Pesach (Passover), but of course we had to cancel. I haven’t seen her for a year and a half. I miss her so desperately and want to hug her more than anything, to touch her skin, to sit on the couch and cuddle. I’m grateful my son is local and visits regularly. We’ve gotten closer in the past year, I’m grateful for that. I used to go to happy hours with my friends; have cocktails and eat. I miss that. But mostly I try to be grateful for being alive. I’ve had my two vaccine doses. May we come through this with a deeper understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the world.

Suzie S., Albany, California