Two years ago, COVID-19 had crept into the U.S., and Moraine Valley was among the many colleges, schools and businesses that began locking down to help prevent the spread of the virus. It was supposed to be a temporary measure. But as the pandemic worsened and then dragged on, it was as if we had all stepped into a sort of time machine, with time somehow slowing almost to a stop and yet simultaneously whirling past us. While we were holing up in our homes, staring at each other through screens, people we knew were changing. We were changing. Here, the editors of The Glacier reflect on those changes–and the strange tricks time has played on us.
Accepting my fate but never really understanding it
I don’t remember much of who I was back when everything began to shift, but I do know that what happened next did not go to plan. Whispers and rumors of this illness that was nowhere near our town suddenly spiraled into screaming gossip. My environmental science teacher stopped talking about the Australian wildfires and instead spoke to us in near silence, preparing us for what he believed to be a long-term problem. We never would have guessed then just how right he would be.
Fast-forward to a day later, the day before spring break…I’m sitting in my English class when an announcement is made, followed by cheers and excitement from the whole class. Our one-week break is extended to two, and as seniors, we couldn’t have asked for anything better. We hug our friends goodbye and say “see you later,” not knowing we’ll never sit in that classroom again. We would never get a prom, never get the traditional graduation, and our senior year would vanish before our eyes.
Two years later, I’m now the editor-in-chief for the Moraine Valley Glacier, I’ve graduated high school, I’m weeks away from my associate’s degree, I’m planning my transfer to a university, my grandma is a cancer survivor, my great-grandma lost her battle to COVID, and my four-person family has shattered in two.
Looking back on it, I don’t think I ever even grasped how much I’ve endured these past two years. It’s almost like life just happened and I’ve simply stood here picking up the pieces, accepting my fate but never really understanding it…I suppose a lot of people must feel this way, it’s probably just another side effect of the COVID time machine.
Some sense of normalcy
March 28, 2020. I’m exiting the plane alongside my best friend and his brother. We’ve just had an amazing vacation, hanging out with friends and swimming in the ocean, clueless to what is actually happening. The whole vacation, I’ve missed good Chicago-style pizza, and as soon as we land, both families go get some. Dinner is masked with talk of some virus called COVID-19. I’m half-listening, not thinking it’s really something to be worried about.
Fast forward to a few months later, and my dad and I are in our garage wiping down everything we bought from the grocery store with Lysol wipes while shielded by masks and gloves. My dad makes me rubberband the end of the gloves to my wrists to make them airtight. I’ll never forget the feeling of tightness on my wrists just about every day. A few months later, my parents grow more relaxed. I have to push boundaries; I haven’t seen my friends in months and my then-girlfriend even longer. I sneak out one night to have a picnic with her in my front yard, and I feel nothing but guilt and fear afterwards.
Two years later, and I’ve caught COVID twice. Everyone in my family has had it except my dad. We’ve been very lucky with no hospitalizations and no deaths in my family from COVID. My family was very serious about the quarantine; I couldn’t leave my room, I used a separate bathroom, and food was left at my door.
Now, mask mandates are lifted in my city. When I’m at work, people come in without masks with the biggest smiles on their faces. I catch myself smiling too, finally catching a hint of normalcy. After two years, I don’t think COVID is going anywhere but rather, society will slowly accept it as a way of life. Time really flew by these past two years, but now, it feels like as long as I’m not alone, I’ll make it through anything.
I grew and learned so much
When COVID-19 first hit, I was a junior at Marist High School. Now, I am in my second semester as a freshman here at Moraine. When I think about it, that time in my life–the before-time–seems so far away. We have all grown into different people since then. How could it have been only two years ago?
I remember the excitement of having two weeks off of school. I didn’t like high school much, so the fact that I got to stay home and do school from there sounded so nice to me, and it really was. Both my parents kept their jobs during lockdown, and I didn’t struggle that much with being stuck at home. I actually really enjoyed it.
It kind of felt like lost time had come back, and I was able to really be with myself and kind of reinvent myself in a way. I learned a lot during this time–how much I love to be alone, how much I’m a homebody, and how much I enjoyed watching the world come together, even if just for a short while.
While the world stopped for a time, I was able to take on many new projects. I got a new room and painted my closet pink. I started working out. and I grew a liking for long walks, something I think many others can relate to.
Looking back at who I was before COVID, I see a person I no longer recognize, but I take that as a good thing. I grew and learned so much over these past two years, and I am grateful that it didn’t affect me negatively as it did many others.
The best of times, the worst of times
Before the pandemic started and time stopped, I had plans.
I had just come back from a school trip that was meant to help us juniors plan our futures by visiting different universities. I even met Blue, Butler University’s mascot. I had followed him on Instagram for a while before our meeting, so it was definitely a highlight. I planned to leave for an exchange trip to Italy over spring break. In April, my journalism class was planning to head to Tennessee. Of course, all of these plans got canceled. I needed a two-week break after all of my fun plans were ruined.
The rest of the year went by in a blur. I quickly realized online school was not for me, after nearly failing all of my classes. It was a harsh reality check.
Summer made it seem like things were looking up. Masks were standard, but at least we were able to leave the house. After everything, I was looking forward to my senior year. Luckily, my high school was not fully online but rather on a hybrid schedule. Unfortunately, that did not keep me motivated. My grades were slipping for more reasons than just COVID, and I had to come to terms with the fact that I was not ready to go away to school. As graduation neared, I was rejected from both schools that I’d applied to. My friend and I were always late to school. And I was just ready to be done. The only good things left were prom and graduation.
After senior year, things were getting better. Masks weren’t necessary for the vaccinated, I met one of my internet friends (now a close friend in real life) and while I was upset my high school friends would be leaving for universities, I now know they are just a trip away, which has led me to here.
These last two years have been both good and really, really bad. But I have a job that I love, I’ve made new friends, and I’ve gotten closer with my family. While things haven’t gone as planned, I’ve done a lot of growing, and I’m thankful for that.
Thank yourself for making it this far
Everything has felt like nothing since the beginning of the pandemic. Activities that used to bring me joy now feel mundane. The only way I’ve managed to hang onto the little left of my sanity is through therapy and the gym. The slight routine of those two things keeps me balanced on this tightrope I call my life. Without them, I probably would have been the first-choice candidate to star in the next ‘Joker’ movie. Therapy has kept the strings that hold me together taut.
When I first started therapy virtually, I was nervous leading up to each session. What was there to talk about? What would I say? My social skills at that point felt the worst they had ever been, and that was dramatic considering I had been hospitalized in early 2020. At that point, just about a month before the official lockdown, I was already in an iffy place, not really sure what I was doing with my life. The meds weren’t working, and I was losing sleep as well as my mind. I didn’t trust the doctors one bit. I was paranoid and unsure of the reality I was living in.
Therapy was the one thing that came and gave me substance. It gave me purpose, a will to talk, the means to make life a little less dry, and the ability to add in some color.
After a bit of time in lockdown, I started working out again, and it kept me whole, or at least it kept my pieces together, like a loose Elmer’s glue. I’m still finding my routine; I think that’s something a lot of people are striving to do. We love patterns, and repetition is key to balancing the craziness of everyday life. I’m still learning to be more social and testing my abilities, though it’s been hard dealing with masks, closures, and my friends being away at college.
This pandemic has tested our reserves, but routine is key. Keeping yourself comfortable is essential in such a confusing and stressful time. Find your balance. Try to keep it. And thank yourself for making it this far.
A loss of connection
College is supposed to be a special time–a time to meet new people, to go out to parties, to “grow up.” For me, however, my college experience has been largely one of isolation.
I have chosen, throughout my semesters at Moraine Valley, to do almost exclusively online classes. I do not regret this, as it has allowed me to juggle work and extracurricular activities in a way I would not have if I were on campus. But this choice has come with a cost–the loss of interpersonal connections.
Most people have lost touch with others during the pandemic. It is difficult to keep up casual relationships with others when you don’t see them in person and you’re not close enough to meet regularly. It can be even harder to make new connections, especially in online classes. Class discussion boards are not a substitute for real, in-person discussions, and Zoom calls aren’t conducive for group conversations. Though I have made many close friends online, I’ve found it much harder to do so when in an online college format.
There is an innate isolation, a loss of connection, that comes with online schooling. To me, this does not outweigh the benefits.
It’s so important to seek out opportunities for a connection whenever possible. I cherish the few people I have been able to meet and converse with properly during my semesters at Moraine Valley. Though I have not had the stereotypical “college experience,” I will still look back at my time here fondly.