Student News

A Valuable Lesson

In the midst of social distancing, a high school senior learns an important life lesson: Take nothing for granted.

Charles Schnell, Student Contributor

May 11, 2020

A Valuable Lesson
If we were living in pre-pandemic circumstances, I would have gone to my Senior Prom on May 16, 2020. At the risk of sounding cliché, the night would have been magical. My classmates and I would have celebrated and danced the night away under a mid-May sky so starry and serene that Van Gogh would have wished he thought of it first. The party would have served as a grandiose and romantic beginning to the end of youth, a party of which not even Gatsby could dream. On May 29, 2020, I would have traveled with my fellow graduates to Disneyland to experience Grad Night. While I’m definitely not a night owl, I bet it would have been one of the best nights of the year. Looking for more COVID-19 student-impact information? Find it here.
On June 1, 2020, my school’s Honor Society would have taken a field trip to La Jolla to go on a kayaking voyage and parade the streets of that beloved, Southern Californian coastal paradise. This annual field trip has consistently been one of my favorite events throughout high school. Little did I know that last year would be our last time going kayaking together. On June 5, 2020, my friends and I would have walked proudly down the aisle in tempo with “Pomp And Circumstance” and—only a little while after—thrown our caps in the air as we celebrated a youth completed and well spent. You might recall that in my previous article, Optimistic Ruminations For These Trying Times, I was hopeful for the future as I attempted to look on the bright side of social distancing. And while I truly still believe that the economy and the politics of it all—not to mention the pandemic itself—will eventually recover, the past few weeks have definitely begun taking their toll.
I am very introverted by nature. Social distancing was a skill I had already mastered. While some of my friends were immediately having trouble with the cancellation of the remainder of our senior year, I was not terribly mournful over the loss. However, especially over the past two or so weeks, my feelings have begun to worsen. I’ve started going a bit “corona crazy” myself—a phrase I’ve used for going stir-crazy because of being holed up at home. Thankfully, through focusing on my schoolwork, dreaming of college life, contemplating what to do over the summer, praying, and binging movies, I’ve been able to remain hopeful that this too shall pass. One thing I’ve definitely learned during this time is to not take many things in my life for granted. A few months ago, I had no idea how much I subconsciously valued things that brought structure and organization to my life—classes, theater, church, music lessons, school clubs... Just waking up and knowing who I’ll see later that day—because it’s a day like every other—brought me some semblance of purpose and kept me sane. Now, I really have none of those things—at least, not in the same capacity as I did two months ago. Nor, do I see anyone that isn’t a member of my immediate family anymore. Don’t take me saying all of this as me saying I am against social distancing. Quite the opposite. I do support social distancing and understand why we need to do it. It’s just unfortunate that it is having these adverse side effects on us. Still, what can be done? Besides hoping and waiting, not much—but that’s all we need.
Another aspect of social distancing that has caused me to reassess and learn to consciously value, every blessing in my life is the fact that I will not be experiencing all of these senior milestones that I was hoping to—Senior Prom, grad night, graduation. I remember that at the end of last school year, my friend from another school who was a senior invited me to her high school graduation. It was really long and consisted mostly of various faculty members calling names of a 2,000-member class through a muffled microphone system that couldn’t overpower the roaring crowd. Still, I loved it anyway. I was so happy for my friends who were graduating and I couldn’t stop imagining myself walking down the aisle, hearing my name called, receiving my diploma from a school leader, posing for the perfect photo, placing my tassel from right to left (is that right? I don’t know.), and throwing my cap in the air with my fellow graduates at the end of the school year. While there’s still the possibility of my class doing so far past the end of the school year, we won’t be able to do it right at the end of the year. While I’m grateful that my graduation has been postponed rather than canceled, my classmates and I fear the momentum, the 18-year build up won’t be as powerful as it would have been had graduation never been postponed. Even so, we understand it had to and that it was definitely for the best. It could always be a lot worse. That’s what my drama teacher told us when we had to cancel this year’s high school play: “It could always be a lot worse.” He is right. None of my friends have died. No serious tragedies have afflicted myself, any of my friends/fellow actors, or even just anyone I know. All things considered, we are very lucky. Losing a play is not a huge sacrifice. Even so, I can’t help but feel sad. I know my friends, my teachers, and I have not been as adversely impacted by the pandemic as others have, and I definitely want to care for and support people who need help in any way I can. However, all that being said, my friends and I have not gone through this pandemic unscathed. Given the economic downturn, the social distancing policies, and the disease itself, I’m fairly confident no one in the entire world has. We have lost once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, experiences, and memories. We have lost our final months together, some of us who have known each other since pre-school. Throughout these weeks, we have occasionally lost our—for lack of a better, less dramatic term—sanity. But again I say, who hasn’t? This has certainly been one of the most widespread events in recent history. That’s why this has taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned over the course of my short, 18 years on Earth: Take nothing for granted. Even the most routine things can disappear as suddenly as the coronavirus transmits. Eventually, things will return to normal. Things will get better. I have hope. And, when they do, I’ll make sure to value and be grateful for every little thing I can.

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