My left arm hurts.

Fifteen hours before starting this column, I received my first vaccination against COVID-19. I am now experiencing some mild side effects: soreness at the injection site, mild headache, mild joint pain, the occasional dry cough and a stuffy head.

Even so, I feel grateful. Grateful to acquire some immunity against a mysterious virus that has ended so many lives and created such chaos. Grateful that we live in a time of such scientific sophistication that we could develop an effective vaccine against such a slippery and cunning enemy in a year’s time. Grateful that I will soon be able to see my parents and family members again.

I recognize that the vaccines are controversial, just like pretty much anything related to COVID. I’ve heard of health care administrators who have offered extra vacation days to incentivize their more skeptical workers to get the shots. I know some people have reported getting pretty sick from them.

Personally, I was anxious to get the shot, even if it meant sweating through the abbreviated COVID symptoms. I’ve done some research. I know this is simply my body responding to the messenger RNA, which is teaching my cells how to make copies of the spikelike proteins that replicate the distinctive crownlike spikes on coronaviruses. From now on, should I be exposed to the real virus, my body should recognize those pointy little devils and summon the troops to destroy them.

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I know that, contrary to rumor and fear-mongering fake news, mRNA never enters the nucleus of our cells, where our precious DNA is kept, and that the cell gets rid of the mRNA soon after it’s finished using its instructions.

In my mind, it is basically a tiny miracle.

In fact, two weeks ago, I actually considered a “vax-cation.” Upon hearing that Thrifty White had vaccine openings across North Dakota, I seriously planned driving three hours to Bismarck to get one. Although it was worlds away from taking a private jet to Dubai, as some of the uber-rich have done, this little jaunt seemed worth it to me.

My plans didn’t work out, but I needn’t have worried. This week, Thrifty Whites in Fargo and West Fargo introduced a flood of openings. This time, I drove just eight minutes to stand in line for a Pfizer vaccine. Actually, my paperwork was messed up, so I wound up standing in two lines. But it was still relatively easy.

Afterward, I ran a few errands and picked up a takeout pizza for dinner. It felt so... normal. Almost like life was for all of us BC. Before COVID.

Before I grew so used to social distancing that I freaked out whenever I saw people on TV brazenly hugging and kissing.

Before I experienced a healthy and energetic friend needing to use a wheelchair, suffering cognitive setbacks and being unable to work an eight-hour day after being clobbered with the virus.

Before I gained my COVID 20, lost a job and found myself missing the most basic rituals — such as eating at a restaurant or sitting in a coffee shop with friends.

A couple of nights ago, I heard a Nobel Prize-winning economist talk about the future. In light of epic vaccine rollouts, the possibility of herd immunity on the horizon and extra help for those who have been economically hobbled by the pandemic, he spoke with an optimism that I haven’t heard for 12 months. “It could very well be morning in America,” he said.

Let’s pray and hope it is.

It's been night for too long.