On the bright side

Even though the pandemic has presented its own challenges, there are still things to be grateful for


I can vividly remember sitting at my computer in the back of our Journal room during a production night on March 12 last year, making pages for our upcoming issue. I was at a new level of stress. My pages were lacking pictures I would have to get that weekend, and I had plenty of homework to worry about when I got home as well. Towards the end of the night, around 5 p.m., Eli Beck, a sports reporter at the time, came running into the computer lab with his phone saying, “We get a week off!” Excitement and confusion filled the room because COVID-19 didn’t seem like a huge issue. Perry Township never called off unless it was for extreme reasons, and there had only been a couple cases of COVID-19 in our county.

Here we are. A year later, and I am now a senior only a few months away from graduation. During the past year, life has been flipped upside down, and I’ve experienced things that would have been simply unimaginable in past years. A multiple-month nationwide quarantine, learning through a computer screen and even getting COVID-19 towards the end of last year. Although most of these seem negative, the pandemic has actually benefited and changed me in immeasurable ways, and I am very grateful for everything the past year has taught me.

Before I explain myself, I must say that I stand with fellow Americans mourning the loss of over 520,000 people in our country. When my family and I had the virus, it was stressful, scary and anxiety-ridden, and I am so blessed we did not lose a loved one. I cannot even imagine the pain of the families going through loss from this pandemic. I would reverse the deaths and pain in a second if I had the chance.

But, I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for the lockdown I experienced. As cheesy as it sounds, it truly provided a chance for self-reflection and the opportunity to stop taking things for granted. When life came to a halt, I was stressed about the future. I had tests in the upcoming weeks, I hadn’t picked out a prom dress yet, let alone found a date, and my dance team was heading to Nationals. Being sent home put all of those things on hold and gave me time to rest. I was able to take my mind off of small things and appreciate more substantial things, such as my health and the warm weather we were having. I still find peace in that to this day because even though my school stress levels are back to normal with plenty of assignments to fill my weeks, I am healthy and still get to step into the school building a few times a week. Although our “corona-cation” turned into more of a “corona-lifetime,” life slowed down at the perfect time.

I won’t disregard the fact that mental health issues skyrocketed at this time for everyone, including me. Having to socially distance from friends and loved ones and seeing everything I had been looking forward to cancelled in front of my eyes caused nights of tears and constant longing for a normal end to my junior year. I lost a couple of friends over the months of lockdown, people who I couldn’t imagine myself without a few months prior. I was very anxious for what the future of our lives and country looked like, as everything was up in the air and questions weren’t being answered. But, I am so grateful. There can’t be highs without lows. And without the ultimate low I found myself in months into quarantine, I wouldn’t be the happy, confident, grateful person I am right now.

Losing toxic friends only allowed me to get closer to the real ones that had been there for me through everything. I was also able to stop finding my worth in social cliques at school or grades in my courses. I learned to love who I was outside of group identities. It’s because of that reason that I am currently surrounded by amazing people, ones that appreciate who I truly am, which looks different than it did in March 2020. I have become much more grateful for the things in my life, which can be as simple as my favorite restaurant being open for indoor dining. I have learned to show love towards everyone because everyone has taken on this pandemic differently.

I’ll be the first to admit that quarantine was kind of fun in a way. Through all the family movie nights, bike rides, walks, game nights and new recipes, I was able to look at the bright side and make the best out of it. My sisters and I tried new workout programs on YouTube, which gave me a slightly-toned body for a couple weeks until I gave up, of course. My family and I drove around visiting our best friends from six feet away. And not to mention, the TikTok trends during this time were simply unmatched. I came out of lockdown closer to my family than I could’ve ever imagined, and for that I am so extremely grateful.

Though the end of my senior year is still up in the air, people are continuing to get the virus and I only feel safe seeing the same couple of people, I wouldn’t want to go back to this time last year. I am a completely different person and probably the happiest and most optimistic version of myself I have ever been. I have learned to be thankful for every little thing. I am confident in the amazing group of people I have been able to surround myself with and I’m still here, healthy and ready to take on the future, with all the lessons the past year has taught me under my belt. Negativity only makes things worse. It’s time to look at the past year in a positive light and take on any new challenge with confidence, with vaccines in our arms and masks on our faces.