by Athena Gillespie, 06/30/2020, Traverse City, MI

High School 9-12 Category

As I lay in bed, the natural light from my window slowly dwindling, I hear them. A cacophony of drums, maracas, pots, pans, and more. I glance at the clock. 8:00 PM on the dot. I wasn’t expecting a tradition that started in March to last all the way to May, but it was something I had adjusted to and learned to appreciate. Every night, my neighbors stood on their porches and banged on drums, etc. for one full minute. No less, and (usually) no more. At 7:59 my parents would rush outside with metal spoons and frying pans, and produce the loudest rhythms they could. For a long time, I thought these neighborhood noise-making sessions were supposed to be a symbol of community. That, regardless of quarantine, we could all unite as one. My younger sister ended up explaining to me, months in, that the nightly concerts were actually held to recognize healthcare workers and all the hard work they had been doing during this pandemic.
In January, Coronavirus was a foreign flu in China that no one knew anything about. In February, the disease became a meme, laughed about on Tik Tok and Twitter. But in March- that’s when it became truly tangible to Americans. I didn’t think much of it when my teachers handed us books to take home, saying, “Just in case school is cancelled.” I brushed it off, assuming they were just paranoid. But then more and more headlines started revolving around Covid-19. Suddenly, cases were in almost every state. March 12 was the night everything changed.
My friends and I headed downstate right after school on Thursday to see a concert. My birthday was that coming weekend, so we wanted to celebrate by seeing one of our favorite artists. It was a miracle that the show was still on- the singer ended up cancelling the rest of her tour due to Covid, and we caught the last performance. On the drive home, we stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank and get snacks. It was late at night and we had school the next day and the post-concert buzz was starting to fade. Until I looked at my phone and saw a post saying, “School is cancelled for the rest of the month.” I stared at the screen in disbelief. “Ummm, guys…our spring break is three weeks long. Tomorrow is our last day of school for the rest of the month!” Everyone just looked at each other for a second. Then: “AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” We laughed and danced and praised the Lord like we had just walked through Heaven’s gates. The rest of the car ride home was spent discussing all of the fun things we could do together during this blessing of a break.
But when I got to school the next day, something shifted in me. It was rainy and dark, which contributed to a collective sense of unease. I didn’t fully believe it yet, but a question flashed through my mind: what if this is my last day of high school, ever? As I walked through the hallways to my classes, fear settled on the air like dust. Every conversation I heard was Corona-related, the words infiltrating my ears wherever I went.
My eighteenth birthday was the day after my last day of senior year. I had planned on going to the casino with friends, for no reason other than we were finally old enough to. But when I asked my mom, she was concerned. “I don’t know, honey, Covid-19 sounds pretty serious. You might want to go another time when it’s safer,” she said to me. Little did we know–Corona was more than serious. We could never have predicted the impact of this disease on our lives, and on the world.
Quarantine wasn’t what I would call the “time of my life.” As an extrovert, not being able to socialize on a daily basis made me antsy. As an athlete, losing my tennis season was heartbreaking. As a high school senior, missing the last precious months of being around my friends and classmates was frustrating and unfair. But as a healthy young person with a strong immune system, I knew my struggles during this pandemic weren’t life-threatening or scary. Millions of others couldn’t say the same. Whether it was financial burdens, mental health issues, or medical issues, I watched the world around me spiral like a spinning top.
Regardless of the negative impact of corona, so many positive things were happening simultaneously. From fundraisers for local healthcare workers to at-home workouts to family Zoom calls to celebrities doing virtual performances, people around the world were able to connect in new ways.
Living through a pandemic has taught me a lot. It’s taught me how to be patient, creative, and compassionate. But most importantly, I have learned to trust God with everything. I know that He has a plan, and in the face of pain and suffering, He is still so good to us. Although Corona stole so much from me, it has created countless opportunities for growth.
I know I’ll never forget the way Covid-19 impacted my life. The drums and rhythms don’t echo through my neighborhood at 8 PM anymore, but I can still hear them sometimes in my dreams, reminding me that there truly is hope and love in the world.