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Accepting Uncertainty: COVID-19's Impact on My Junior Year

Ilana Drake

June 14th, 2020


With my junior year approaching, I knew that I only would be able to survive if I could remain focused.

I needed to wear blinders and “stay in my own lane” in order to tackle the entropy and stimulation overload of my long school day. While I began to hear talk of a novel coronavirus last December, I was more consumed with my upcoming first semester final exams and writing out a short list of colleges that I was hoping to tour during spring break. Every day I rode the 1 train to and from high school with my oversized backpack, making sure that the contents of my backpack corresponded to my “A” day or “B” day class schedule.  If I saw something out of the ordinary, I would try my best to place that event in the overhead compartment of my mind, knowing that I needed all of my energy for my daily trudge through a school day lasting from 8 a.m. until 3:35 p.m..

COVID-19 has been a time of reflection and thinking. The past two months have provided me with time to reflect and restart-- kind of like a do over. Up until mid-March I attended a fast-paced high school, situated on a college campus in the city that never sleeps. When we decelerated after our mayor closed the schools, I felt like I had no ground; I was moving from side to side and needed to regain my peripheral vision in order to keep my balance. And that meant getting to tear off my blinders and seeing the flickers of light around me that, while distracting, also provided hope.

To pivot to the light at a time of darkness and social isolation feels natural. Once removed from the narrowness of my daily routine, I began to question that routine as well as  what a “good” public education means in the 21st century. In engaging in remote learning, I have been able to devote more time to my interests outside of school, and I am also more receptive to different forms of learning. For example, during a single evening walk I engaged in expeditionary learning by exploring botany, public health, and economics. My teachers have been the Garden People’s Garden on the Riverside Park Promenade, the outpouring of support for our healthcare workers at 7 p.m., and the empty chairs and tables at all the shuttered local cafes and restaurants.

While my greatest loss is the certainty of a future, I am beginning to appreciate that perhaps the future has always been more uncertain than I had thought. COVID-19 has modified a lot of the givens in my life. I will think twice from entering a packed 2 or 3 express train en route to my two afterschool activities that are both situated in the West 30s. I will refrain from participating in my beloved choir where we had been packed together as we joyously sang and danced in unison at different venues.

But, most of all, I will mourn for those who lost their lives and livelihoods. We live in a city of dreams and a city of heroes. Times Square, once full of colorful characters and waves of tourists, is asleep and one day will awaken. While our Big Apple might be under the spell of a pandemic, I have no doubt that our city will ascend to the throne and be surrounded by brave and valiant knights. For you see, as I am in the final year of my childhood, I still believe that, ultimately, this story will have a happy ending.

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