Be who you really are

April 27, 2020

Never, not once, did the idea of a pandemic ending my senior year ever cross my mind.
If I had to take a guess, I would assume that out of 250 something seniors, not one of them would’ve been able to make that prediction.
I still wake up confused most days; like none of this is real, and we’ll go back and everything will be like it was. But then I go to sleep and I wake up the next day, and everything is still the same (well, the same for the new “normal”).
You can’t predict the future; I’ve always known this. I just never expected it to be this unpredictable.
I didn’t know that my last day of school was really my last day. Neither did anyone else.
On my last day of high school, I was supposed to wake up with a smile plastered on my face. I was supposed to put on the dress that I bought, with the blue gown over it. I was supposed to sit with my friends in those blue plastic chairs on Memorial Field, the sun looking down on us, with tears of joy and smiles scattered around the crowd.
But how could I have known that my last day was really my last day?
I didn’t get to celebrate this milestone when I was supposed to. I didn’t get closure; I didn’t get a final chapter to my 12-year story.
Over the past four years, I’ve lost more than I thought possible. I’ve lost all sense of normalcy in these past few weeks. I’ve lost friends to fights and arguments. I’ve lost friends and family to fatal illnesses and conditions. I lost myself.
Maybe it was because I had realized that loss is inevitable. Maybe it was because people had called me emotional and weak. Maybe it was just something I subconsciously changed about myself, but either way, my emotional reactivity drastically changed. I separated myself from the people closest to me. I didn’t cry, even when I probably should have. I didn’t laugh like I used to. I stopped accepting hugs and I stopped showing the people that I love that I loved them.
As low as things got for me, I wouldn’t change these past few years. I think they are all essential to my life and growth. Without loss, without disappointment, you can’t truly enjoy the good. We need a balance between the two, and I think I’m beginning to find it.
Typically with loss, there’s a period where a person reflects and/or regrets their actions associated with what is lost.
I think advice about having no regrets is unhelpful. I don’t think you can look at things in terms of regret or not because with that mindset, you’ll never be truly happy with your decisions.
The best advice I can give is to stand by your choices and always look forward instead of looking back. I’d like to believe that most things happen for a reason. The good, the bad, they change you, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not, but you are the only person that can change how you see the world.
I’ve learned so much over the years. I didn’t think I’d know this much about life at 17. I know I have so much more to learn, but as of now, here is what I know: Ask your teachers for help. Get to know your classmates, and trust me, you’ll be surprised by what they have going on in their lives. Wear pajamas or a suit or a dress to school, just wear what you’re comfortable in.
Drive around Reeds Lake with your friends with the windows down and your favorite songs playing because there is nothing else like it. Say hi to people when you pass them in the hallway. Be kind to everyone. Tell your friends how you feel. Check-in on your friends. It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to not cry. And finally, the cheesiest but possibly the most important: tell the people you love that you love them.

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