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My High School Experience During a Pandemic: the Good, the Bad, and the Lessons I have Learned

By: Mary Hogan

As I walked through the hallways on the first day of high school during a highly

contagious global pandemic, I followed the red arrows on the floor, on my way to class. I

looked around, observing the lockers no one will use and even catching a glimpse of the

cafeteria no one will eat in. I headed straight for my classroom, passing students and

teachers alike, all masked up. Although I felt nervous, all I could think about was “what a

completely absurd time to live in!”

As I look back on this year, I think of how crazy everything has been (for myself

at least), all the way to last year, from graduating grade school to starting high school;

all throughout a pandemic. I mean, think about it! We missed almost the whole second

half of last year, and in my case, that included the grade 8 grad trip as well as

graduation. Most of us then spent the spring and summer lazing around at home,

following protocol, and (at least in my opinion) found that doing nothing isn’t very fun or

fulfilling. Then, in September, the teachers and government had to find a balance

between teaching effectively, both online and at school, while still staying safe and

keeping COVID numbers down. Although there have been pandemics in the past, such

as the Black Death and the Spanish Flu, this is a first for the vast majority of us youth.

Throughout this year, high school has been very different than the “usual”. When

I say different, I don’t mean only good different or only bad different, but a mixture of the

two. It cannot be denied that this pandemic has brought some terrible things, such as

separation from our friends, teachers and peers, confusion with new rules and

protocols, and more stress in just about all areas of life (school, health, family, finances).

However, it’s also good to remember the old saying “every cloud has a silver lining.”

I have found several silver linings in school during COVID, some of which are the

comforts of home during online school, less exams (I have yet to do one exam in all of

grade 9) and easier tests, and an overall straightforward transition to high school

(quadmesters are actually pretty similar to elementary school). So even though high

school has been strange with all the differences, there are some benefits.

When I think back on what I have learned, I was surprised by realizing that I

actually haven't gained a lot of knowledge. I haven't invested an abundance of my time

in completing an impressive feat nor learning a new skill, rather I have spent my time

doing the ordinary things, the regular everyday things. Upon some further reflection, I

realized that I have found some key lessons throughout all this. I have come to

appreciate my friends and cousins that I can no longer see (except for FaceTimes and

Zoom meetings), and have learned more about my family, having to spend more time

with them. I have also realized the unpredictability of life, and on that note, I have tried

to make changes in my lifestyle to appreciate the current and small things in life. Who

knows what tomorrow will bring? Like St. Ambrose of Optina said, “the beginning of joy

is to be content with your situation.”

So now, dear readers, I urge you to look back on your own experiences over this

past year and a half, and reflect on what lessons or skills you have learned. Try to find

some silver linings in your life, even if they are only little things, like a flower blooming in

a garden, or an especially tasty meal. Learn to love and appreciate the people and

things in your life now.

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