Welcome back to the blog!
Wearing a mask in public in 2020 has been a part of the new normal for (a lot of) us. Why? Because we’re in a pandemic, a global health crisis that changed all of our lives and disrupted our daily routines. We weren’t prepared for this, but it’s here and it’s the reality.
However, wearing a mask isn’t something new for everyone. Why? Allow me to explain. For instance, if you live in Asian countries like Japan or Korea, wearing a mask in public or wearing one when (you are) sick, is the right thing to do, it’s a normal thing to do, it’s considered a courtesy (to others around them), and, it’s embedded in their cultures. Such a simple act is nothing new, it’s definitely not weird or abnormal.
Also, wearing a mask for people in the chronically ill community, is not new, either. Many people with chronic illnesses or are immunocompromised (with no reference to culture), wore a mask before the pandemic, they’re definitely wearing it now, and will continue to wear one, even after the pandemic is over.
Just like many people with chronic illnesses, I also wear a mask. The need for me to wear a mask (prior to the pandemic) wasn’t because I was afraid of germs or viruses, of course keeping them out would be nice and necessary. For me, it was more about me wearing one during the bitter cold winter months, or whenever it’s too windy outside. The mask uses as a barrier to protect me from breathing in extremely cold, and dry air, which often makes me feel unwell afterwards (And note: this was prior to getting a diagnosis).
Then fast forward, in the winter of 2019/2020, which was when we heard about this new coronavirus, and, also around the same time, when I received finalized chronic illnesses diagnosis. At that instant, I just knew that I had to make wearing a mask more of a routine, because it was already winter, and winter is usually tough on me and on my body, and because, we have a potentially serious virus going on.
But, at that time, wearing a mask wasn’t recommended by health officials, and instead, we heard a lot about how masks won’t be useful, and they should only be preserved for medical professionals. Which I strongly believe the second part. But, many people wore non-medical grade masks, and for those that wore one, especially for Asian people, and people with chronic illnesses, were horribly discriminated, which was totally not OK. To be honest, because of this, I was pretty upset, because they make people like me, that want to wear a mask, even for other reasons (other than the virus) very vulnerable and stand out even more.
Thankfully, and I really meant it, THANKFULLY, public health and health experts changed their ideas about masks, even though it was after months of debate. Can I also say, I thought of this debate kind of funny. I understand that health professionals need to give the most accurate information to the public in order for them to follow, but the fact that it took that long, I think it’s not really that hard to figure that out. At the end of the day, even though this whole “mask debate” went on for so long, I’m just glad that they did the right thing in the end.
But, you may still be wondering, why wearing a mask in 2020 is in my favour? Well, I guess I still haven’t really answered that just yet, haven’t I. That’s because, when I first started wearing a mask, even occasionally in the winter, it was an adjustment to me. I felt that I was the only person wearing one. I felt alone and I stand out. Although, as I’ve said, I know that many people in the chronically ill community wear masks, but I don’t really know that many chronically ill people in my life in person. And those chronically ill people that I do know, they don’t directly live with me, or walk with me everywhere and every single day. In case you didn’t know or forgot, I already kind of stand out in public, because I’m visually impaired and I use a white cane as a mobility aid. Wearing a mask in public, that just makes me stand out even more. And I forgot to mention, because of my visual impairment, I also wear sunglasses most of the time, too, adding on a mask on my face, it makes me look like I’m hiding something (or my face) from people, even when I know I’m not and I’m just trying to protect myself- both my health and my eyes! But of course, I don’t wish illness on any one, that has never crossed my mind, ever. But some days, the thought of “I’m the only doing something that nobody else does” even though I‘m sure I’m not the only one thinking or doing this, and it’s only natural and normal to feel that way sometimes. But! This pandemic in a way helped to change that. At a time when I thought I’d be the only one wearing a mask on the street, now the majority of people are wearing one, too. And it’s becoming more of a normal thing. So, I hope, because of this pandemic, and because what we’ve all been through together, people (from outside of Asian countries or aren’t chronically ill) will no longer see someone wearing a mask as “weird” or “strange.” And instead, see it just as a part of life, and that it’s a normal thing to do.
By: The Invisible Vision Project