BECAUSE OF COVID-19...

Not being able to experience a traditional end to my senior year of high school has been disappointing, to say the least. As a second semester senior, I was ready to sit back and enjoy my last few months of high school. I had planned to fly to Washington for my Grandma’s 80th birthday celebration, show off my photos in my school’s senior art exhibition, coach my SILC kids through their upcoming AP exams, and publish my last few issues of the school paper. And of course, I was also looking forward to some of the quintessential senior traditions: May Day, senior ditch day, prom, and best of all, graduation.

But because of COVID-19, things didn’t quite go to plan. My final classroom discussions were held through Zoom. Instead of physically printing our school paper each week, we have had to shift our focus to our online presence and publish articles on our website. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to some of my favorite teachers from past years. Prom was an hour long, virtual, and left a lot to be desired; it was far from the night of dressing up, dancing, and laughing with my friends that I had imagined. Instead of proudly donning my college shirt on May 1, my college commitment day consisted of an Instagram post. And commencement will now be an online ceremony, though there will be an opportunity to walk across a stage set up outside my school and get my picture taken.

Missing out on these events--that I had been looking forward to for so long--has left me feeling angry, disappointed, and hollow. This past fall, during college application season, one of the motivators that kept me going was the fun traditions that I knew I would get to experience later on in the year. When these dreams weren’t realized, I was left feeling that it was all for nothing. There has been little closure to my high school years, and even now I find it hard to believe that in a few days, I will officially be a ‘20 high school graduate.

Quarantine has undoubtedly been a challenging experience--one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Some days, all I want to do is lay around and binge-watch a season of a show on Netflix. I feel overwhelmingly frustrated every time I hear about the ridiculous COVID protests, and the fact that some people refuse to take this pandemic seriously and are endangering themselves and others in the process.

However, I am generally a pretty optimistic person, so I do also like to look at the bright side of things whenever possible. And in some ways, quarantine has helped to strengthen my mental health. I’ve kept busy because of AP exams and writing for the school paper. I have felt a purpose as I share others’ stories through the articles I write. I started running a few times a week, a goal that I had been trying but failing to find time for previously this year. I’ve been on socially-distanced walks with friends. I made a photo series of toilet paper in the COVID-19 era, some of my favorite photos that I have taken to date. I have been spending a lot more time with my family, and started a book club with my Grandma.

And when I look back on my high school years, I realize that I have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for late nights in the newsroom, golden hour at photo club, and lunch/free periods at the third floor counters. And I would also like to sincerely thank my friends who helped keep me sane throughout it all. High school was a crazy, wonderful, and tiring rollercoaster. Some tears were shed, but then again a mental breakdown or two is practically a job requirement for high school students. But I don’t think that the loss of this handful of events deserves to overshadow the sheer number of other amazing experiences I had at my high school.

It can sometimes be hard to stay optimistic when the future is so unsure. What if my grandma gets COVID-19? What if my college decides to go fully online next fall? What if it takes years for a vaccine to be developed? Every time I start to spiral and imagine these “what if’s,” I have to remind myself that even from a seemingly challenging time, positivity can blossom. People have much better hygiene than they did at the beginning of 2020, because handwashing is at an all time high. People have been spending more time with their families. COVID-19 has acted as a major market disruptor that has led to unprecedented levels of innovation. And maybe COVID-19 will be the missing piece in the puzzle that will help us finally solve the climate crisis. Not all change is bad. And hopefully, amongst all this horribleness, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths, some good will come. And the truth is, compared to what some other people have gone through these past few months, having to sacrifice the last few months of my senior is a small price to pay.

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