by Erin Evans, 04/22/2020, Bellaire, MI

High School 9-12 Category

Written March 31, 2020

Things have dramatically changed here. Of course, I’m talking about the coronavirus and how it has recently reached Michigan, causing everything, it seems, to suddenly shut down.

It’s amazing to me how quickly the virus went from being something I heard people joking about to changing everyone’s lives and isolating people around the world. Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention to the news, but for me it felt like one day I heard someone mention the virus for the first time—at this point it was still far away in other countries and we all thought it wasn’t much worse than the flu. A week later, it was in the U.S., and a week after that, school was closed. It could have been slightly longer than this, but everything happened very fast.

I started reading the New York Times every day or so after it reached the U.S. and realized that maybe this was really an issue. Still, I didn’t feel that worried. The idea of being personally affected was far from my mind, but I wanted to know what was going on.

When the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in California that could not be traced out of the U.S., that’s when I first remember feeling afraid. We were no longer safe. Around the same time, my friend told me that two people she knew from her foreign exchange in Sweden had COVID-19. That was scary, but since I didn’t know them, it didn’t feel very close to me. And they were both young, so it was just like getting the flu for them, right? They would be fine.

Then one morning—Friday, March 13—while I was walking into the gym, someone asked me, “What are you going to do without school for three weeks?” I was confused.

“I don’t know?” I said, the way you answer a question you didn’t understand but don’t want to spend time clarifying.

I rushed into the locker room and I checked the Front Street Writers group chat on Snapchat, thinking maybe someone had mentioned what was going on. I had to scroll back pretty far, but I found a screenshot of an article from Bridge Magazine: “Whitmer closes all Michigan schools for three weeks due to coronavirus.” I remember standing there, backpack hurting my back, feeling like I had just been given the greatest gift of all time.

As I ran that morning, I thought about all of the things I would finally get done during those three weeks. I was going to finish both of my online classes, clean the tornado site that was my room, go to the gym for more than an hour every day, spend time with my friends without the constant feeling that I didn’t have enough time for that, and I would return to school feeling like I had my life together for once. I was a bit surprised that the situation was serious enough for school to close, but when you get three weeks off of school you don’t question it too much. Especially when you’ve felt buried by work and never-ending stress for weeks.

I think most of us felt like this. We were excited for the “break” as we referred to it. I don’t know why I didn’t see that three weeks clearly was not long enough for an entire pandemic to occur.

In Front Street Writers, we shared a google doc with the whole class and added recommendations for books, movies, TV shows, things to do when you’re bored, and writing prompts to lists we made. Our teachers made their own document with some ideas for things to do while school was closed. One that I plan to do is look at the New York Times’ Pandemic Journal and write my own 300-word piece about being out of school because of COVID-19, as Ms. Berry recommended we do. I also have started keeping a journal during this time. It is not entirely about the pandemic, but I want to have it to look back on.

We also talked about the coronavirus and why it is important to slow its spread. That way, hopefully the hospitals can take care of more people.

The weekend after school closed, my friends and I had planned to get brunch and go thrifting. Our plans were cancelled as more and more parents decided they didn’t want their kids to leave home. I was still allowed to see my friends and go to the gym at this point, but was told to avoid going too many places, especially those with a lot of people.

The first three days were great. I felt like I had infinite time, and that was all that mattered to me. I worked on my online classes, picturing how great it would feel to walk into school in the mornings with two free hours to get any work done that I needed to. I planned to apply for a job at the gym after school resumed to make some more money in the extra time I expected to have. I helped my mom with her home daycare and we went to yoga in the evenings, and I finally had enough time to start trying to cook.

Then on Monday, March 16, all gyms in Michigan were closed. That included the yoga studio my mom and I attend. I started running with her in the morning while it was still dark out, using a head lamp.

On Tuesday, I interviewed an author for the National Writers Series website over the phone. She was in New York, where she lives, and said the situation there was not good.

On Wednesday night, my mom closed her daycare indefinitely.

At this point, everything was uncertain. That’s what was and still is the hardest part of this for me. I don’t know how long it will be before anything will go back to how it used to be. What makes things worse is that this coming year is perhaps the biggest change in my life. I’m a senior this year and planning to leave home and go to college. The five months before the next school year starts seems shorter and shorter the more I realize how long it could take for the world to recover from the virus.

The last time I went into town was to go to the grocery store with my dad and sister. I stayed in the car while they went inside. My immune system is bad enough as things are. Since then, the farthest I have been is the five-mile route we run in the morning down our and a few other roads. We mostly pass tall trees and swampland, but see a few houses as we get closer to town, none of which I have seen people leave. It is quiet in the mornings near our house, but for the wind and the occasional bird. I haven’t seen any cars come down our road since my mom closed her daycare. My family lives in the middle of the woods, so we can walk at least a mile without seeing anyone other than my grandparents, who live down the road.

A few days ago, my sister mentioned that we could have already had our last day of high school without knowing it. That struck me. I hadn’t thought about it. I guess we never really know when it will the last day of something, but I thought I would know when high school was over. But it is looking more and more like we really won’t go back. I can only hope. And I really do miss school. I liked the idea of a break, but the thing is, it was never really a break, it was a precaution taken because of something potentially very dangerous. I have since realized this.

I might not go back to high school. There are some people I might not see again. I might not go to graduation. I might not have a senior prom. I probably can’t get my hair dyed in May like I was planning for months. My sister and I probably won’t go on a road trip to Ann Arbor for orientation at the University of Michigan (orientation is now online, I heard), and my family might not go on a vacation in July.

I am of two minds about this. Of course I’m disappointed. These are all things I was looking forward to. But then again, there is a pandemic happening in our country. Not just our country, but all over the world. I am grateful that I haven’t been personally affected by it and focus on staying safe. At this point, I am mostly looking forward to being allowed to go places and see people again. I am trying not to let the feeling of being isolated get to me. At least I am safe.