When I woke up on Friday, March, 13, I wasn't expecting my life to change completely—no one was. It felt like a normal day, almost too normal. Every student in my high school felt like something was brewing in the horizons—with hindsight we should have expected it completely. Even though we knew a weird "virus" was sweeping around the world, we didn't think it would impact our lives in a small town in the middle of Pennsylvania.
A few days prior, my AP English teacher advised us to start bringing textbooks and notes home in case the schools ended up closed. It was that night that I started really reading articles about "COVID-19." I'd heard and read tidbits of the situation in the weeks prior, but I never put much stock in them. It was nearing the spring of my senior year so all the competitions, award ceremonies, concerts, and, of course, graduation, were approaching quickly. That was where my mind was focused.
I'd been waiting for senior year for ages. I've always been heavily involved in school, extracurriculars, and academics, so I had a lot to look forward to. Sadly, things don't always go according to plan.
I remember going from class to class following my normal schedule that Friday morning. Even now, almost a year later, I vividly remember sitting in AP Spanish class during first period and then heading over to Statistics to learn about null and alternative hypotheses. It was a perfectly normal day, and at the beginning, there was nothing really special about it.
During my free period, I was planning interviews and distributing surveys for my new article for the school paper. The piece focused on COVID-19, and people's opinions about it. (That article never got published—for obvious reasons). Surprisingly, most people's responses were unconcerned. My peers said they may be more cautious in the coming weeks but did not hold much concern. Later that day though, everyone grew more apprehensive.
At the end of the day, everyone was sitting in anticipation in their classes. The room was abuzz with emotion and energy. I was in the Journalism room sitting with the staff watching the screen, just like everyone else. Almost every room in the building had Pennsylvania Governor Wolf's press conference blaring. We were all on our phones awaiting press releases and news articles with information. At that point, we all knew something was coming; we all felt it. As time ticked by, the Governor's announcement continued to be delayed.
Suddenly, a classmate sitting beside me held up his phone dramatically saying a Pennsylvania Congressman tweeted that PA schools would be closed for two weeks. Being that only one source released this information, our teacher advised us to wait for an official announcement. Still, our minds were fluttering with anticipation because nothing like this had ever happened before.
That announcement came a minute after the bell rang when official news outlets were releasing the news--school would be closed for two weeks. I remember showing teachers the news article in disbelief. We were expecting it, but at the same time, we weren't. No one could have expected the news.
We were used to delays, cancelations, and early dismissals for snow, flooding, and national holidays. What we weren't used to was cancellations due to infectious diseases. Leaving school carrying the rest of my essentials, I drove home laughing in astonishment. I was literally laughing in shock because I never would have expected a two-week "vacation" in the middle of March. It was the type of laughter you get when you haven't yet accepted something.
I'll never forget my laughter on that car ride home.
Looking back, I wish I had cherished that day more. That was my last day of high school, or at least my last normal day. You can't help but feel cheated from closure. I will continue to look back on that day and think that it wasn't "special." It was normal...almost too normal. If I knew it was my last day in high school, I would have cherished the moments more, all of us would have.
The two week cancelation turned into a month, then it was indefinite. Now, here we are in March, and I am in my second semester of Penn State Zoom University.
Over the course of this past year, I have learned a lot about life and have 5 principle lessons that I would like to share with you.
1. Cherish what you have because you never know what will happen in life. Do not take any moment for granted, especially with those you love.
2. Do not sweat the small things in life. After experiencing the emotional traumas entailed with the pandemic, I've learned that some things are not that important in the grander scheme of things.
3. Nothing is permanent or certain in life. Sometimes, life is unfair and harsh, but when these events occur, we just have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep trucking on. You can't let hardships turn you bitter. You need to look towards the light and goodness in the world. That is how we move on from traumas like this pandemic.
4. Spend your time doing the things you love. Try new things. Learn new lessons, skills, and facts. Spend time with those you love.
5. There is always something to be grateful for.