by Leah Burns
“If there is one message I could relay to all seniors or all of those affected by this, it would be that we, as a Christian community, have been taught all our lives to be thankful and rejoice in God, so that is exactly what we need to do now: remain optimistic and stay strong for those who can’t.”
It was was a Friday afternoon, and excitement for the weekend was building up. I was sitting in class with my friends in my senior year. We were laughing and planning what we would do that night, simply going about our regular school day. Our politics teacher had put on the news during class as he always does, and the slightest bit of concern arose in us. We felt bad for the people in Italy and China, but we thought something any teenager might think, “It’s okay, that won’t be us,” and we proceeded with our day. The last bell rang, and we all headed home before a bonfire. The sun went down, and our night had just begun; we carried on with a good time of laughter, music, and socializing. Although looking back now, I would have celebrated a little differently had I known this was my last day of high school and normal social interaction.
Since that day, the whole world has become irresolute. As a senior, I was mostly concerned about prom, graduation, spring break, and all of the traditions I had been looking forward to for years. Especially graduation — that day had been the only true thing I waited for, the day where I could put all of the hard work and struggles of high school behind me. My dad even jeopardized his Air Force career by turning down a deployment just so he could see me walk that stage.
My senior year was a bit unpleasant. I was a four-year athlete that was misled by a coach and the unfortunate misunderstanding affected me deeply (leaving a team that I loved and a sport where I had hoped to medal in the state championship). Apart from that problem, I had to face him every other day in the classroom where my grade was also at stake. So I guess you could say I had a reason to be relieved that because of COVID-19, I did not have to set foot in that particular classroom any longer.
Surprisingly, not only did these monumental changes negatively affect the pattern of my year, but they also changed it for the better. I started off by using this isolation to improve my grades, health, and relationships. I realized that in this stressful year, I had pushed away a handful of friends and family. I then thought to myself, “If I’m going to live through a historical pandemic, I am not going to do it alone.” I acted upon this and used my time to take walks with family, go on bike rides with my friends, learn how to fix cars with a special someone, but most importantly rebuild those relationships that meant the most to me. Who would have thought that walking six feet apart from someone so often could bring you much closer? This opportunity was an example of how God works in mysterious ways.
Admittedly, the first few weeks away from school started to weigh heavily on me. Thinking of all the would haves, should haves, and could haves made me lose some hope. I wanted so badly to see all my friends again and to spend more time with the exchange student I had befriended before she was sent back home early. There were a million reasons for me to wish this all to be over and with haste; but then it was like God painted over my grey thoughts with rose. My school sent out senior recognition posters and invited students one by one to get graduation media; that’s when I started to realize that this year would never be forgotten. Once again I found myself thankful for the support and resiliency others showed me.
We can only wallow in loss for so long before ending up lost along with it. That is why it is so important to me to remain faithful during these times. I find myself always looking up to God for the positive sides of everything; that way I’m not hanging my head and tripping over the past. If there is one message I could relay to all seniors or all of those affected by this, it would be that we, as a Christian community, have been taught all our lives to be thankful and rejoice in God, so that is exactly what we need to do now: remain optimistic and stay strong for those who can’t.
Leah will be attending, perhaps virtually, Wilkes University this fall, studying Spanish and will be a proud member of their swim team. She hopes to join ROTC at college and, like her dad and sister, the Air Force.