A Pandemic of Perspective
The date was Thursday, March 12th. It was the school day when a fourteen year old girl was hit with news that left her feeling like she was the ground beneath a crashing airplane. Everything suddenly changed. The countless field trips, ceremonies, competitions, and events set to take place in those final months of eighth grade were all being cancelled at once. She was doing her best to put everything into perspective: attending statewide gatherings or trips to amusement parks would likely not be intelligent choices under the circumstances, but a month ago in early February, there hadn’t even been news of COVID-19 in the United States. Before it was taking over the country, it was taking over her way of life. The scariest parts of it all were the unknowns, from knowledge about the virus to what would become of average life. Everything was being cancelled. No matter how you spun the situation, it was frustrating. She and many others were more concerned about the effects COVID-19 would have on their lives, rather than the virus itself. She felt as though, as every event was ending, her world was ending with it.
Yes, this girl was me. Four months, one global pandemic, and a never-ending quarantine ago. Little did I know, this slightly-solemn Thursday would be my last day in the middle school.
The following Friday was a teacher-work day, meaning students had the school day off. This Friday was also the day my family had long been scheduled to pick up our puppy. We have always had golden retrievers, and being that our eldest dog, Tucker, had passed away in December of 2019, we felt ready for a new golden to join our pack, and befriend our other golden, Finn. On the multi-hour drive to retrieve our retriever, the phones of my entire family began to buzz.
“It’s a message from your school,” my mom said, speaking to my brother and me after peering at her screen.
My brother, a graduating high school senior in the Class of 2020, will head off to Tulane University in the fall (albeit with different regulations than usual). My sister is an upcoming junior at Tulane, and had previously attended the same school as me and my brother.
“Campus is officially closed. They will announce plans for online classes sometime within the next two weeks,” my mom continued.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel. The situation was odd; it was something not I nor anyone else had experienced before. We arrived at the house of the breeder, and were faced with determining our puppy-soulmate. Just like love at first sight, as soon as Graham was in my arms, it was clear that he was meant to be in our family.
Time passed. Online classes began, and Graham, the exuberant puppy, continued to grow from a bunny-rabbit into a lamb into Dumbo the Elephant, and finally began to take shape as a handsome and fluffy golden retriever (oh, and before that, there was a period of time where his look reflected Dobby the Elf). He had been glued to Finn from his first night at home, but Finn was finally beginning to accept the little delinquent as his brother. They were now inseparable. While I remained heart broken about all of the things I had missed, I realized that there were silver linings. Not to say that this global pandemic was a positive thing! However, if I was in school all-day, every-day, I would not have gotten to spend such an extensive amount of time with Graham in his early months. While it was an awful experience for my sister to be evacuated from college and rushed home, unable to say goodbyes to her friends and roommates, I do appreciate every moment I gain with her watching John Mulaney specials and laughing until our stomachs churn. My brother was unable to have the senior prom he had envisioned, but three months into quarantine, we threw him the greatest at-home family prom in the history of at-home family proms. I got to personally name him Prom King, place the crown upon his head, and force him to, as King, do the chicken dance. On camera. And I was grateful.
On a global scale, with people all over the world secluded in their homes, our environment has begun to heal. With most schools closed across the country, March of 2020 became the first March since 2002 without a school shooting in the United States. Social media has provided a place for people to join together on Zooms, FaceTimes, or game nights, regardless of how physically distanced, allowing people to feel a sense of unity and togetherness. No, simply being in our homes did not solve these issues, as someday people will return to using products that pollute the environment, students will go back to school, and social media will be flooded with negativity, cyber-bullying, and opportunities for self-shaming. But we gained perspective.
I can better appreciate the time I have with my family; my brother and sister will soon become the first college students of this new era, and the qualities that irritate me to no extent while in quarantine will soon be missed like crazy. I have realized how important my friends and attending school are to me. I learned to make an effort and reach out to others because if I didn’t while in social isolation, I wouldn’t “see them in the hallways”, or “bump into them in the lunchroom”. It was up to me to tell those I care about how much I care, and being separated from them really allowed me to see just that. We as a people have realized how much harm we are inflicting on our planet and one another, and when the choice is ours once again, we will hopefully have learned enough to do right by each other in the future, and become a stronger and more resilient world.