If I had known…

Dear Past Carmen,

You never appreciated what you had until you lost it. It was the fall of your 8th-grade year, you were motivated to graduate and head on into high school. Your life was filled with joy, you had many reasons to smile. Your friends were by your side, you were able to socialize often. During class, you were able to laugh and express yourself. You cruised through school, every day like the last, not enjoying it as much as you could.

Around January the jokes began to come in about coronavirus. By February, everyone had stopped giving handshakes, but it was because of jokes that people had stopped. The firsts of March began like any other, everyone anxiously waiting for spring break. On March 12, you were supposed to shadow at Latin, but the school was canceled. You began to think that it was all temporary, that public schools would continue to be open. There was no way that they could cancel all schools right? You continued throughout the week at school.

Monday the 16th, you woke up at 6:30, as usual, to get ready for school. Your mother informed you that you were not going because a case had been discovered at a nearby school. Normally, you would have rejoiced at the news, but something felt different this time. You went back to sleep and awoke to find that school had been canceled for two weeks. You were happy to get an early spring break and were excited to go back after two short weeks. Weeks turned into months, which turned into the whole school year canceled. You were at your peak without even knowing, by being able to go to school.

As you continued through online class, you realized your mistake. You missed the last day of your eighth-grade year. After nine years spent at your elementary school you never even got to see it through to the end. You lost the one last opportunity to feel like an 8th grader. You never got to see your classmates, all together, for the last time. You thought about graduation and hoped for a reunion later in the fall when everything would go away.

As time went on, you still clung to the hope of seeing your classmates again. Your graduation was a drive-through, the only people you saw were your teachers. That was the last time you will ever be a middle schooler again.

I often ponder what could have happened if I had gone to school that day. I would have been able to properly leave everything behind instead of having it ripped away. Not being able to attend the last day of school with my classmates left me wondering. Could I have done anything to make the situation better? Is this going to be the last I see of my class? Will I ever get the chance to say goodbye to my friends?

One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling powerless. As if, no matter how much you want something you will never see it again. No matter how much I hoped or cared I was never going to be an 8th grader again. I will never go on my 8th-grade trips or have the graduation I dreamed of. I will never get the last day of school again.

Covid-19 took a lot of things from me, but it also brought me much time to reflect and spend with family. I learned to value the moments I used to take for granted. I learned even on the worst possible day of school I was still lucky enough to go to school. This newfound feeling of not being able to go back to school is comparable to having a stuffy nose and remembering all the times you took breathing for granted. I have learned to never take anything in my life for granted. Life showers us with gifts, but it’s not our birthday.

Carmen Quinones – The Latin School – DMSF

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash