“Why do you have to be so difficult? Why can’t you just be like everyone else?”

In the fall of 2021, my daughter Sophie was a rising freshman at San Diego State University. The summer leading up to her emotional departure was a nail-biter for me: I checked the school’s website daily to see if they were going to implement vaccine mandates.

It was California. She was going to university. Of course they were going to implement vaccine mandates.

I had been vocally anti-COVID vax from the beginning, much to my family’s embarrassment and ire. “Literally everyone we know is vaccinated and they’re fine,” my daughters would say. “Why do you have to be so difficult? Why can’t you just be like everyone else?

Me (to myself): “Do you even know me?”

“If the girls want to get vaccinated, we should let them,” my husband announced casually one day, a statement that may have resulted in a week of furious silence and a crack in one of our doors.

When SDSU dropped the vaccine hammer, I scrambled to get Sophie a medical exemption. After weeks of jumping through a parade of flaming hoops for the school’s health department, I’m pretty sure I just wore them down. “Fine, we’ll take your money,” is what they didn’t say.

Out-of-state tuition isn’t cheap.

The university did not make it easy for the supposedly less-than-one percent of their students who were unvaccinated. Sophie had to test twice weekly (she knew not to put that poison stick up her nose and would blow into a tissue and swab the snot), which involved tracking down a test, trudging home with it to swab, and then finding a “convenient” drop-off place. (They were never convenient.)

The school was supposed to process her results within a day but often they didn’t, which deemed Sophie “not cleared to be on campus.” More than a handful of times she was called out — by name, in class — and told to leave. Once this happened when she was in the middle of taking a test. She may as well have been forced to walk around campus wearing a scarlet A (not adulterer but for the far worse antivaxxer) over her SDSU tank top.

Only unvaccinated students were made to endure the rigorous, ridiculous testing protocols. My constant emails to the school health department with updated research about testing and transmission went frustratingly unanswered.

As luck would have it, Sophie contracted COVID not the first month of living on campus, or even the first week, but the first day. She had never been sick in her life, and COVID hit her hard. She was weak and scared and of course, embarrassed about being unvaccinated. Most of all, she was terrified that she would be moved into one of the “quarantine dorms” everyone was already talking about. As if being away from home for the first time in her life and feeling like death wasn’t hard enough.

I was on my way back to Texas when she got her test results, but my husband, Joe, happened to be in California on business and was only a few hours north of Sophie. He turned around immediately, scooped her up, and the two of them checked into a hotel just off campus.

It took Joe less than 24 hours to develop symptoms of his own. He was knocked flat, too.

When Sophie left for school, I’d sent her with the whole COVID kit — ivermectin, a Z-Pack, and all the recommended vitamins. I had made her a chart of what