Illustration by John Towfighi
I’ve spent more time in my room in the past three weeks than I did for the whole month of February. My school bag has sat in the same spot by my desk. The typical day I spend lounging on my bed, reading to pass time, is far from what would be my regular, lively day running around the High School.
In all this alone time, I’ve been checking the news and checking in with friends. Reassuringly, It seems everyone is talking about how we are all in this together.
Students around the globe have had their schools closed. We are all sharing the common consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
From our communal sense of doubt there has grown this sense of unity. That being said, while we are unified in reacting to the same situation, I have begun to understand how it can be immensely personal and different for each individual.
On the surface we are in the same situation. Yet, as we watch the virus grow and begin to become familiar with this new unknown reality, the ways in which it uniquely affects our lives will also become more apparent.
It is important to not overlook how it is beginning to affect my own life. This pandemic is such an unfamiliar occurrence, it can be hard at first to register that it may affect people I know.
My mom casually mentioned at dinner the other night that my grandpa was at risk if he got the virus. He has a history of respiratory issues and sleeps with a breathing aid. My grandma on my dad’s side is also at risk. She has had pneumonia a few times before and currently lives in Boston, where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly.
In London, my family still gets groceries delivered by workers who are required to keep showing up to work. We clap on Thursdays at 8 p.m. for the health-care workers who are sacrificing their safety to be at the frontlines of this fight. As I go on walks with my dog, I see people working in shops wearing masks and gloves.
The virus has a direct effect on my life and the people around me in ways I hadn’t initially considered. While I am caught up in reading stories from around the world about the virus’ effects, I overlook that there are stories around me that I should give more thought to.
As the pandemic has turned from an overseas threat to a cause of legitimate stress for the people in my life, I have tried to spend time figuring out how I fit into all of this.
For certain, this situation will fill my life with more ups and downs. These upcoming months were going to be a tremendously meaningful time – a sort of peak of the long arc of Grade 12. The bitter-sweet moments that come with the end of high school were nearly here. I’ve grown up here, and my whole life have looked forward to this infamous second-semester of Grade 12.
Now, rather than one long arc, there will be more frequent highs and lows. I am living in a new reality. The semester that I envisioned, this picturesque end to my time in London, is not going to happen.
Instead of reminiscing with people in my grade, I have been alone for the past month. The number of days I’d be spending in my house has started to register in my head as I receive more notifications about the number of COVID-19 deaths. Infections are growing exponentially. Press briefings and daily news only bring more signs that self-isolation is needed for possibly months.
While these moments have brought downs, I find myself on the way back up at points. I am a bit unsure at times, but I don’t want to dwell in the lows forever. I am healthy and safe. The curiosity of seeing what can make me happy in this new situation is beginning to nudge out the idle dread of doing nothing.
Coming out of winter, I had intended for spring to be a time of reflection as I prepared to leave for college. My situation is now miles apart from what I had thought it would be, but I can still find a way to reflect on my high school experience. Closure is something I know I value. I have to navigate these different waves of the coronavirus and find my own means of resolution.
These next few months may have more peaks and troughs than I usually experience. It is a time of heightened emotion. It is a feeling of being so close yet so far, of still silence in place of hallways of laughter. Rather than mindlessly ride out these waves, I want to find ways to employ my own policies to smoothen things out.
2020 will be remembered as a turbulent year. Beneath that, it is also an important year for me. 2020 is the year will I graduate high school, vote in my first U.S. presidential election and learn how to drive. It is important to enjoy the peaks when they come. When reflecting, I don’t have to let the coronavirus dominate my memory of this year.
It seems I will have a lot more time in my room. Therefore, I have to try and focus on the now and find the things that will entertain me. Longing for school is natural but soon will be a wish I know won’t come true.
As I watch the seasons change, and feel Grade 12 slip away, I will experience more troughs of frustration. Yet, if I leave expectations behind, I may find a few peaks of inspiration. All that goes down can come up.