Biggest takeaways from COVID-19 pandemic as a high school senior

Biggest+takeaways+from+COVID-19+pandemic+as+a+high+school+senior

Angela Li

I can’t believe it’s been over six weeks since our last day of school, as this whole situation still seems so surreal at times. 

I’ve been wanting to write this for weeks now, but honestly, was never able to form a cohesive message. It is truly hard to believe in the matter of weeks, COVID-19 and related concerns have shut down the entire nation. I miss going to school and seeing everyone, I really miss my teachers, I miss eating lunch with my friends, and I miss playing in orchestra. This situation is undeniably difficult on everybody, and it’s likely an experience we’ll only have once in our lifetimes.

My heart truly goes out to all those struggling, grieving or in pain in the current moment, be it because of medical complications, lost jobs and businesses, cancelled events and experiences, and a whole other plethora of reasons. 

Managing Editor Angela Li poses for a photo with her section before the fall orchestra concert on Oct. 15, 2019.

To my fellow seniors especially, I know how tough it is. I’m sure many of you expected this to be your year, the year you poured your heart out into that club, sport, performing arts group, or anything else you’re passionate about, and had the absolute time of your life. We’ll all be missing out on something we were looking forward to, whether that’s prom, graduation, college visits, state championships, or final concerts, and there’s a chance that we won’t all be together in one place with our friends and teachers at the same time ever again, which is undoubtedly devastating.

As sad as it is, however, we must accept this situation, because that’s exactly what it is: our current reality. This feeling of acceptance and appreciation is the point I’m at. I thought it might be interesting to walk you through the evolution of my mindset over the past month and a half, so here’s an anecdote for you. 

Reflection Timeline

March 12, 7:30 p.m. — Turns out I had picked the worst possible time to take a nap, because right after I fell asleep, around 7:30 p.m., was when the news came out that school was cancelled until April 13. When I woke up at 8:30 p.m., I checked my phone—which was blowing up and had thousands and thousands of unopened notifications from the past hour—and it actually seemed like everything was mass chaos. After reading through everything and realizing what had happened, while extremely sad, I genuinely thought we’d return to school as scheduled and finish the school year together. It was also in this moment that I had the first large realization of how much we truly take for granted in life. 

March 19, 1:30 p.m. — The news that the school closing was extended to May 1 statewide was undoubtedly the COVID-19-related update that hit me the hardest of all. It came only a week after the first set of news, but things had continued to so negatively evolve, that I very quickly realized returning to school this year was extremely unlikely.

Li takes a selfie with her violin during quarantine. She said one of her best high school memories was getting to play music with her friends.

This realization hit me hard for the rest of the day. I actually felt paralyzed, both in my mind and body, and I sat on my bedroom floor leaning against the wall for at least an hour after the news came out, as I repeatedly thought through the possibility of never seeing different people again, never spending countless hours in the orchestra room ever again, and never experiencing the long list of events that I was looking forward to in April and May. I was hit with stings of regret for not going into our Midwest performance in December, and those last few weeks of school in March, with more cherishing. It really hurt. I’m sure many of you experienced similar feelings at that moment. 

Later that night, I put some of my thoughts into a brief post, in order to move forward and begin living this new reality. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote to my close friends: 

Biggest takeaway from all of this is that we truly can’t take anything for granted, because any conversation, rehearsal, event, car ride, meal, you name it, could be your last. We are so fortunate to live the lives we live; cherish what you love, spend time with your family, tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, and be grateful for every opportunity and moment you have. I’m optimistic things will improve; all we can really do is pray and take it one day at a time.

I’m always here for you; please don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything at all, and reach out with a text or call if you just need somebody to talk to. I love you all so so so much <3

March 20, 8 a.m. — After sleeping on the news that night and really processing my feelings, I’d fully readjusted to a very positive mindset by the time I woke up the next morning. The circumstances were already so severe, that instead of spending time grieving, the best thing for me to do at this point was making the absolute best of the situation, take time to reflect and appreciate everything I’ve been so blessed to have, and keep pursuing life passionately. I was grateful for the time to rest and rebuild healthy habits, and more than anything, grateful for everything that I was so fortunate to experience my time at CHS. 

April 2, 2:40 p.m. — Thus, with a positive mindset, when news broke out that the school closing was officially extended to the end of the year, it was nonetheless disappointing, but I had already processed the possibility so thoroughly in weeks prior and reached peace of mind, that I simply I continued to move forward with a positive mindset, and make the most of my time. I made it a daily priority to work out, sleep eight hours at night, spend more time with my family, stay motivated on my work, keep in touch with friends and teachers via Zoom, and simply, live each day to the fullest. 

Quarantine Takeaways 

We’re undoubtedly all still presented with an immense challenge, even now, on April 25, months after this all started; however, this situation is only what you make out of it, and I definitely see it as an opportunity for reflection and growth. It’s certainly important to take time to grieve and process your emotions, but once you’ve reached some peace of mind, consider an adjustment of mindset and a reevaluation of the time you now have. As much as it hurts, it is imperative that we make the most of the time we have left. This can still be your year. There are so many moments to cherish, appreciate, and hold dear to your heart, and there’s still time to form bonds, make memories, and make your mark on CHS, as long as we remain resilient, and think a bit outside the box. 

As I’ve expressed, my biggest takeaway from all of this has been to take absolutely nothing for granted, and as grateful as I already was, there were clearly areas of my life that I still didn’t appreciate enough. Looking back, I’m sure many of us regret not going into numerous experiences with greater appreciation. So, change that mindset going forward. Truly take the time to appreciate what you have in the moment. Pour your whole heart into every experience while you still have the opportunity to.

Li poses on her lawn wearing matching sweatshirts with her cat during quarantine.

We never know when things will come to an abrupt end, and we can avoid much of the grief and regret associated with lost opportunities in the future by making an effort to really seize and appreciate each moment we’re lucky enough to have.

Moreover, treat those around you with love and compassion in your daily lives. Do all you can to spread compassion and positivity, especially in uncertain times like these. Truly empathize with those struggling and extend your love and grace to them. Life feels long, but it really does pass by faster than anyone can imagine, and negativity in any form is simply not worth our time.

If anything, I urge you to use this time to readjust your mindset, build healthy habits, stay productive, continue to challenge yourself, learn that new thing you always wanted to learn, stay in touch with those you love, and just make the most of your time in any way you deem fit. 

Finally, more than anything, take the time to really love and appreciate those around you. The healthcare workers who are risking their lives to be on the frontline of this crisis. Our teachers and other school staff who are doing so much and trying their absolute best to give us as special of an experience as possible. Family members who are adjusting to completely new lifestyles and schedules as a result of stay-at-home orders. Friends who have stuck by your side throughout high school. Spend time reflecting on and being grateful for meaningful CHS experiences and the people who made them so special, and hold these memories and individuals dear to your heart. 

tl;dr

This situation is incredibly saddening, but we have to accept the reality and make the most of what we still have. Challenging times like this are what builds our resilience, and especially, reminds us to really appreciate the time we have going forward. We—seniors especially—are undoubtedly missing out on many things that we’ve dreamed of for so long, but I’m sure this experience will propel us to live the rest of our lives so much more fruitfully and gratefully. We can still make this period of time amazing, even if in different ways than we originally envisioned. If we all come together and support each other through this last bit of time we have, I have faith that we will all have the joy and closure we need from this school year. 

Thank you, COVID-19, for the reminder to take absolutely nothing for granted, to live each day with gratitude and love for those around us, and to really live life to its fullest. Thank you for showing us how precious life is, and for reiterating the importance of taking a step back, freeing ourselves from unnecessary worries, living in the moment, and just wholeheartedly cherishing the time we have. I’m more full of gratitude now than I’ve ever been, and I hope to continue to carry this mindset with me as I move forward in life.

Well, that was a lot, but if you’re still here, thank you for your time in reading this in its entirety. I hope this column helped you in some way, even if just giving you sentiments to reflect over or relate to. My heart genuinely goes out to all of you; I’m here for you, and I understand the pain you’re feeling. We’ll get through this, and will definitely all have a very interesting story to tell our grandchildren someday. :’)

I love you all and I hope I’ll see all of you soon. Here’s to you, COVID-19.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Angela Li at [email protected]

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