Should I stay, or should I go? This is the question that’s been haunting me the past couple of months. It’s the question on all of our minds at the moment, and I’m sorry to say, I don’t yet have the answer. In a non-Covid world, the answer is simple. I’d go. In a heartbeat. No questions asked. Not even a question, in fact. But in a Covid world, with so much uncertainty, it becomes much more complicated to decide. What’s the best thing to do? What’s the safest? What’s in my best interest?
The question on my mind, as an international school educator, is whether or not to go back home this summer to see my family. I always go home (well, there was that one year I traveled Europe instead) for the summer, where I spend time with my family and see my friends I haven’t seen in a while and drive all around the great state of Texas to visit far-flung relatives and eat my favorite foods (in Austin, mostly) and shop for all the things I always buy in America (here’s looking at you, tampons with applicators, Mexican spices, deodorant, toothpaste, makeup, all the books, and much more).
I mean, I didn’t get see them at Christmas (another one of those trips I almost always make), which means if I don’t go home, it’ll have been a year without seeing them except for through a screen. And then there’s the new baby who’s due in May, a new niece that I can’t wait to hold and cuddle and love on. If I don’t go home, she’ll be more than 6 months old the first time I meet her. Also, I could use some family time, what with a worldwide pandemic causing all kinds of stress and undue worry and anxiety that we’re all dealing with.
But with Covid and all the stress and risk that comes with it, do I dare? Going home means leaving my safe bubble on Jeju (where the cases are really low…like ridiculously low…as in about 500 total cases since the pandemic started and only one death) and going to America, where the cases are crazy high and the death count is astronomical. Not to mention the actual travel there, with long haul flights, crammed in a small space with lots of people and germs galore. And then there’s the Covid tests, the ones that have given me anxiety ever since the last one I had in Seoul during quarantine, where I screamed and cried for a long time after. I’ll do anything to avoid that again. It’s not just one test either, it’s five at minimum. I shudder at the thought. Quarantine, while now only when I return to Korea (since Texas has lifted all restrictions), is still not something I’m excited about. Frankly, I had enough of that in 2020.
The biggest fear I have though is if I actually get Covid. Apart from the obvious fear of contracting a horrendous respiratory illness that could kill me, I’m worried that contracting the virus might mean I lose my job. I love my job and my life in Jeju, and I don’t want to give that up, but the reality is that if I were to get Covid in the states, I could very well lose my job (legitimately- I’ve checked) if I were not able to quickly recover and return back to work. Is that a risk I’m willing to take? Does choosing not to go home for fear of catching Covid and possibly losing my job mean I love my family any less? Does it make me selfish? Am I overreacting?
What’s the right decision? I feel like I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. I thought that writing about it would make the decision clear, that processing the pros and cons would somehow show me what to do, but it hasn’t. Does anyone have any advice?