Paige Bunker ‘20, LyonLife Editor-in-Chief
You were so uncalled for, and maybe that is why it hurts so bad. I keep on thinking, you know, if you would have told me on New Year’s Eve — the night that all 300 seniors in my class and I looked at ourselves in the mirror and thought, “2020, this is our year!” — man, if you would have told me that night that in just three short months, high school would be over; spring break and spring sports would be canceled completely; prom, water wars, senior prank, clap out, senior video, student-staff volleyball game, graduation parties, and even graduation would be up in the air; and that the only way to see my friends would be through the phone or at least six feet apart, I would have laughed in your face. And then I would have given my friends a big ol’ hug while I still could.
COVID-19, you happened so fast. What began as this intangible, foreign devastation and joke on social media soon became our own tangible tragedy. And you were just so quick. Within a week, Michigan alone went from untouched to a state of emergency and full-blown lockdown. It all happened too fast to make sense of at the time, yet now we all have more time than we could have ever dreamed of to think this all through.
And maybe that is the funniest part. For years, I complained that if I only had more time maybe I could get whatever-needed-to-be-done done. Maybe I could finally get some sleep. Maybe I could relax a little. For years, I complained about waking up in those painfully-early hours when the sun still snoozed below the horizon as I dragged myself to first hour, hoping the caffeine would kick in soon. Yet, COVID-19, you have given me all the time in the world and a free pass to sleep in every day of the week, and yet, I would trade it all back without hesitation if I could. I’d even suffer through the early mornings and tight-schedule. I guess it truly is like they always say: “You never know what you have until it’s gone.”
However, even with all the time in the world, us seniors are faced with a bittersweet paradox because, meanwhile, we must watch our time slip away. Unlike every other grade, there is no “next year.” There is no other season of spring sports or semester to spend with teachers and classmates in a place that, whether we admit it or not, has shaped us into the people we are today. For us seniors, every day in quarantine is one less day out of the few that were left to begin with. Every day in quarantine is one less day enjoying the company of our best friends before we must part ways forever.
Thus, it is hard (in fact impossible) to not feel as seniors that, COVID-19, you served us unfair circumstances. And while we are all aware that there is worse to go through, that people are dying, and that our sacrifices are for the greater good of all, it is still hard to not feel as though us seniors were not given what we deserved. All twelve years of our lives have been leading up to this year: to dressing up for prom, to laying out in the sun with our friends on our last high school spring break, to planning a senior prank that tops the previous class’, to running around like idiots with water guns, to crying and holding onto our best friends as the school claps us out on our final day. Finally, to walking across the stage to receive the diploma that we have worked our whole lives for, and throwing our caps up to the sky as tears of both joy and sadness cloud our vision, grateful for the doors that have closed and excited for the new ones that will open. So, as seniors, while we are all aware that there is worse to go through, it is okay to mourn. To mourn for the traditions that we will never experience in the ways we planned to, to mourn for the time that keeps slipping away, and to mourn for the closing of this door: the last twelve years of our lives.
However, COVID-19, you continue to amaze me. In the midst of the anger and the tears, in the midst of lost lives and lost time, you continue to reveal little miracles and teach me something new every day. The other day, I came across a quote whose relevance touched me deeply:
“When everything is uncertain, everything that is important becomes clear.” -Unknown
` As a senior, one of the most difficult things that I have had to face is the radical acceptance of the unknown. We are all asked and expected to accept the fact that not only will prom and graduation likely not follow tradition, but that they may or may not even be held. We are all asked to have this blind faith, believing that we will get the celebrations that neither our school system nor our country can promise. Thus, as the saying goes, in the midst of my uncertain certainty and clouded future, what is important has revealed itself, crystal-clear and — unlike everything else in the world right now — stable.
Time and time again I have found comfort and strength in the community that surrounds me, even in the face of great terror. Relying on the essential elements has transformed me into a person with so much more appreciation for not only my life before quarantine but the little moments of joy in my life right now.
COVID-19, you have forced us to get creative and come together in ways we have never considered before. Whether this is through virtual chats or even distanced car tailgates with friends, we have not given up our fight nor compromised the bond of humanity.
You have taught us to take care of the environment in the ways we know we always should have. Waterways and skies across the globe are clearing up as factories reduce their exhaust and pollution. You have even taught us to recognize not only our health care workers but our grocery, food, protection, and janitorial workers too for sacrificing their lives every day to keep us safe and alive.
You have created heroes and survivors out of some of us and turned all of us into prevailers.
COVID-19, you were so uncalled for and will likely remain just as unpredictable for quite some time. As seniors, we have lost a lot. There is no way around that. And while our pain, our anger, and our tears are all justified, we must never forget that our pain is not only within our hearts but within the hearts of every person across the world. That pain is universal. Sure, it takes on many different forms and manifests itself in all sizes — from lost experiences to lost jobs, to lost loved ones — but, we must never forget that that pain connects us. That pain is a unifying force, not just a weapon of mass harm. And we must continue to let that pain bond us, build us. We must continue to defeat this global crisis with the power of community. We must never ever push down that pain, but rather feel it in its entirety, and then let it transform us.
So, dear COVID-19,
You hurt me, us, badly. But you have not won this battle.
Photo courtesy of SJ Lasley