“See you in two weeks,” I said to my friends as I left my high school in North Carolina the Friday before spring break last March. Around that time, I was eager to experience all of those final celebrations that come with being a senior in high school, such as prom, senior week and graduation. I went home that Friday in March 2020, unaware of what I was about to lose.
A few days later, school closures were announced, and reality hit — I would never go to prom, attend graduation or celebrate committing to the University of Georgia the way I had hoped. This wasn’t the worst part. It was the uncertainty and confusion as case numbers rose and people isolated themselves in their homes.
I stayed inside for months, fearful of leaving my own house. My family took extreme measures to stay safe from the virus, as my mom falls under the high-risk category. My time at home was defined by worry and angst, yet reflecting back on those long months, I discovered some silver linings. As we approach a year of battling this virus, it is important to consider some of the positive changes and personal growth that resulted from our new way of life.
The extra time at home allowed me to slow down, reconnect with my family and reflect on my own life. Before COVID-19, my family, like many others, was running in so many different directions. My dad, who typically traveled one to two times per week, was forced to stay home, and we spent more time as a family than we had in a while. We ate all of our meals together, picked up fun quarantine activities and watched new shows every night. Although I already had a tightly-knit family, I hadn’t realized that it was possible for us to become even closer.
During this time, I also began to take my own life less seriously. Glued to the news, I quickly realized that people around the world were suffering through so much worse than losing a high school senior year experience, forcing me to put things into perspective and appreciate the hidden opportunities that I was given. Due to my lightened schoolwork, I spent time doing things that I actually enjoyed. I implemented working out into my daily routine, started eating healthier and found myself feeling less stressed. In fact, this might have been the healthiest I’ve felt in my entire life.
As I came out of quarantine and started my college journey in the fall, I implemented these new healthy habits into my routine. Today, I am less stressed about schoolwork. I am now aware of what is important to me in life and value my connections and experiences at UGA in a way I would not have been able to do a year ago. I can honestly and confidently say that I am not the same person I was before living through this pandemic.
This is not to disvalue the severity of COVID-19. The deaths and hardships are devastating and people everywhere continue to be affected. We have all lost so much this past year but also potentially gained things that we never expected. Beneath the tragic layers of this pandemic, there are some silver linings. We just need to be willing to see them.