HYPERNOVA LIT

A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art

Thank You, Coronavirus: Lessons I’ve Learned While Social Distancing

BY RACHEL LICHTENWALNER

March 12 was … something else.

It was 5:30 p.m. My mom and I had just pulled into the garage from a shopping frenzy at Publix. I’ll never forget the feverish rush of snatching the last four styrofoam cups of ramen in the pasta aisle or throwing random soup cans in the grocery cart. We spent $448 on food.

My phone buzzed with a text from my friend, Sarah. In a group chat with eight other people, she sent a screenshot of an email from Fulton County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney announcing the closure of schools until further notice.

“SWEET,” I replied.

If I could revisit the past, I’d travel back to that moment and slap myself across the face.

I didn’t understand it then, but March 12, chaotic as it may have been, was my last day of normalcy. It was only March 16, the first day of teleschool, when it dawned on me that life was not going to be “SWEET” for a long, long time.

I sure do miss the way things were. Like sophomore Thomas Welch said, it feels like we’re living in a “different reality.”

Right now, a thick blanket of fear and anxiety is swadling the whole world, so it’s tough for me to not feel bummed out. 

Senior Madeline Luth agrees.

“It seems like all news is bad news and it can be hard to see a positive when every day more people are losing their jobs, closing their businesses or getting sick,” she said.

Nevertheless, amidst all the brokenness and disappointment, I’m training myself to look on the bright side and examine what lessons I can take away from this experience.

For one, I’ve come to value my routine, my normal. Mondays through Fridays, I used to drive to school, participate in my classes, come home, eat a snack, complete my homework, eat dinner, shower, (barely) sleep, repeat. On Saturdays, I ran errands and on Sundays, I attended church.

Although working from home can be nice, riding out this situation in comfort and all, I miss sticking to my schedule. I miss the organization of my life.

I don’t like change; I never have and I never will. But it’s inevitable, so I must practice adapting to it. I’m learning and trying my best.

The coronavirus crisis has also shifted my entire perception on the significance of socialization.

Predominantly, I am a person of solitude, a true introvert. Of course, I love my friends and enjoy hanging out with them, but I also like being alone sometimes, too, hence why I thought I could handle the teleschool rigamarole. 

I can, academically — I’ve been doing fine. But without my pals, school is absolutely miserable.

I miss AP English Language and Composition with Sidney, Saanvi and Stephanie, where we obsessed over the dumbest stuff like The Crucible, worm on a string and Dr. Gingrich’s excessive Coke Zero drinking. 

I miss newspaper class, reading over my articles with Brooke, Libby and Cherise. I miss typing away at my computer as Aley walks up to me and addresses me by “Wachel Damooler.” I miss Mr. McDearmon’s daily “Good morning!” as we all groggily respond with a mere mumble.

I miss lunch with Renée, Laura, Kirin and Anjola and talking with Anvitha and Ajai in study hall. 

I miss Spanish. I miss doing the group work with Kathleen, Grace and Fatima. I miss the guys yelling random nonsense and blowing Ms. Redman’s fuse or hearing Braden laugh from the other side of the room during a “fotonovela.”

Junior Madison Cochran said she misses her friends, too, and “even just being around other people having that background noise while I’m at school.”

I’ve conjured a newfound gratitude for all my best buds and classmates. My inability to see them has made me realize how much I cherish our time together. 

I’ve tried group FaceTime, but it’s not the same. I’m craving interpersonal communication. 

I know that there are bigger problems right now than not speaking with my chums face to face. Heck, the economy is in devastation. People are ill and we’re scrambling for more tests and a vaccine, for enough supplies for hospitals and pharmacies.

But still. We’re not made to be socially distanced. We’re made to be together.

When this mess passes, I will never take any form of human interaction granted again. A hug. A handshake. A wave. A simple hello. Chatter with the cashier at the check-out line. Eating at a restaurant. Concerts. School dances. The cheer of the student section at a Friday night football game.

I sure do miss the way things were, but I’m appreciative for what we can learn from this circumstance. Hopefully, we can come out of this as changed people.

Thank you, coronavirus. Thank you for showing me how blessed and lucky I am. Thank you for teaching me to savor every second of my life. Thank you for opening my eyes to what’s really important.

About the Author

Rachel Lichtenwalner is a student journalist at her high school in Atlanta, Georgia.

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This entry was posted on February 13, 2021 by in Creative Nonfiction and tagged , , .
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