Planning for a Pandemic

Lily McMahon, Arts and Culture Editor

On Friday the 13th, I laughed with my class as Mr. Moody told us that he thought, “this is our last day of school for the year. ” The idea seemed absurd. Sure, this Corona thing seemed pretty serious, but it was only March. There was no way. When he said, “See you all next year,” as the final bell of the day rang, I laughed, packed my bags, and said, “See you on Monday, Mr. Moody.” Flash forward to last Wednesday morning and I woke up to find that his prediction was correct. I had my last day of physical high school on that Friday and didn’t even know it.

I am a planner. As I go to sleep each night, I mentally lay out my clothes. Down to the socks, I know exactly what I’ll be wearing the next day. My morning is down to a science: five minutes to shower, four minutes to get dressed, seven minutes for breakfast, three to make my coffee. I wake up each morning, knowing exactly how the next hour of my life will occur. I like the lack of surprises, no twists or turns, a strict routine that doesn’t change from day to day. I don’t particularly like surprises; if a test doesn’t have an outline, it is an instant source of stress for me. For me, life is better when it goes to plan. I want to know what’s going to happen next, to be one step ahead of whatever life throws at me.

We are now in an unprecedented time, new, terrifying headlines come out each day about the state of our world. New guidelines, what we can’t do, what’s safe and what is not, death rates growing by the day. I can’t help but feel helpless, watching from the sidelines as the life that I have become accustomed to crumbles before my eyes. I stopped looking at the news, as it made me far too upset. I recognize that I am in a good situation currently; I have a safe, stable home. We have food and resources; no one in my family is a health care or essential worker, so I don’t have to worry about them getting the virus. When I get upset about how the virus is affecting my life personally, I get frustrated with myself. Why should I be upset when so many people have it so much worse?

I had a plan for how my senior year was going to go: a Google doc filled with possible prom dresses, a Pinterest board dedicated to how I was going to decorate my graduation cap – my best friend and I have had a song we wanted to sing at class night since freshman year. Like my morning routine, I had visualized how the next four months of my life were meant to go.. A picture-perfect ending like I had grown up idolizing in movies with a group jump freeze-frame, and all. I now have had to cope with the fact that this will not happen. Jokes about graduation via zoom are beginning to seem less like jokes by the day. My plan seems more and more like a pipe dream. With the email that we are not returning to school like the nail in the coffin, my senior year is dead, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I try and occupy my time as much as I can. I’ve found about every possible craft in my house to do. Painting, polymer clay, Perler beads, friendship bracelets, embroidery, and drawing fill my days. I listen to music, mainly “The Muppet Movie” soundtrack. I read, and watch Netflix. I write things in the notes app of my phone; this article actually started as a late-night word vomit. A theme that pops up in my late-night notes app sessions is that I wish I went into that last day of school on Friday knowing it was my last day. I had known we were mostly going to miss some school, but the idea of losing over three months did not cross my mind as a possibility. I would have treated that day a lot differently if I had known. I would have thanked my teachers, probably would have cried a bit, and I would have held the day with more weight. I  would have tried to have the closure that I am now searching for. The last day of high school is something I have pictured in my mind for years, and that that Friday was just that, a typical Friday, not the pinnacle of my education that I had planned.

There isn’t a nice way to tie up this article, I haven’t found the magic way to make this all not suck; it still does. For me, I think that recognizing that I’m allowed to be upset about the little things is important. You’re allowed to be upset that you’re missing your prom, your graduation, your senior project, while still recognizing that they are “little” in the scheme of things. I didn’t get the senior year that I have planned, and while I’m not okay with that right now, someday I will be, and you will be too.