Why I am wearing my mask in 2023

Waking up on a school day morning at 6:50 a.m. exhausted, I pack my bag and rush out of my house but not before I grab the most important item I have on me, my mask. Once arriving at school at around 7:50 walking into my classes I see that I’m the only one wearing a mask. Feeling a bit alone and out of place, I don’t say much and idly continue my day wearing a mask until I get to the best  part of my day, lunch. For me, eating lunch in the cafeteria is the only location I feel the most comfortable taking off my mask. Being a quick eater has its advantages, I  finish my meal quickly, putting my mask right back on. With that, my day continues and the process is repeated over and over again. Before it had been something I wasn’t looking forward to, but now it’s becoming something I don’t think I could find myself without.  

Being one of the many of the minority students who still choose to wear masks on a daily basis, I find myself always wondering the possibilities of what a maskless society would look like.

Now the question remains, why do I wear a mask? There are certainly a few reasons I still wear a mask, but the most important ones are because of my immune system and for my family. Since I was young, I didn’t really have the strongest immune system, getting sick easily, going to doctors often. I’d always be sick and staying at home. And since then my immune system has gotten a little better, but not as strong as I want it to be. To me, the safety of my family (and me) in terms of health is extremely important. Since both of my parents work everyday it would be very difficult for my parents to take time off their work if me or my sibling got sick. Taking time off of work and taking care of us is a huge responsibility and time. I wouldn’t want to burden my family with all of that, so I’ve adapted to this change. 

Since the start of the 2022-2023 school year, there’s been a significant decrease in the usage of masks – only 15% of schools required mask wearing at the start of the 2022 school year, compared to 85% of schools the year before, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) banned school mask mandates after entering office in 2022. Across the country, the number of students wearing masks has fallen dramatically, according to The Washington Post. 

When students and teachers entered the school building last year, I saw that many of them, like me, wore a mask the majority of the time. It was only until the last couple of months around March- June that people slowly let go of masks. When I look at this change it seems like people who continuously wore masks last year feared the idea of catching Covid since vaccines were just created, and everyone who people hadn’t seen were coming back from an impactful pandemic. Nowadays, I see less and less of that, some of my friends have also decided to become mask-free. 

I remember when I started wearing a mask 2-3 years ago I was very hesitant about the idea, but I’m so comfortable with a mask on I don’t think I could become mask free. . As I look back on it now, I think one of the most worrying factors about wearing a mask was using it daily for 7-8 hours. As someone who never wore a mask 2 years ago it was a difficult change to accept. Yet it was much easier to confine myself to wearing one to keep my health safe as long as I had friends and family wearing it with me. 

Now as more people are letting go of masks, and returning to the normalcy that existed pre-pandemic,  I find myself debating whether I should continue wearing a mask or letting go of them just as many people have done. Having not a lot of friends who wear masks with me has definitely influenced my perception on wearing masks. I want to return to a sense of normalcy, but the uncertainty of what will happen impacts me and my decisions. I think that has been the hardest part of still wearing a mask. Wearing a mask is just like a habit, and habits are quite difficult to change. 

There are definitely some people who can easily adjust to change, but for others it can take weeks, months or years to change. I still like wearing a mask, and I still will, but it doesn’t change my mind on debating if I should or not. In the future I may not choose to wear a mask, but it all again depends on the circumstance. The idea of  an individual’s circumstance as to why or why they don’t wear a mask varies in response, and my story is just one side of the perspective. 

I don’t really think we can say the pandemic is over as it continues in our lives, but the important thing is that people can try little by little to return to the society we were once.