On March 6, 2020, the last day of classes, I vividly remember running to my car as soon as classes were dismissed. I was in a rush to an appointment after school that I could not miss, and I did not give my friends or teachers a last goodbye. In my head, I figured we would be back in school. Now, 10 weeks later, it is my biggest regret that I did not give my teachers or friends one last hug.
My experience with COVID-19 has been a roller coaster of emotions. Every day is new and my feelings change through each day. Some days I am sad because I think of all the things that I have lost — such as prom, senior banquets, award ceremonies, cotillion, and a few last weeks with my closest friends. Other days I am happy because my family is healthy and we have a house and food when unfortunately, that is not the case for so many other people around the country.
It still feels unreal that this is what my life looks like. I look back at pictures of what I was doing two or three years ago today, and it becomes surreal that this is my life now. It absolutely made the college process much harder than it already was. By not having the chance to visit colleges, go to Accepted Students Weekend, or get a chance to visit the town or city where I will potentially spend the next four years was crippling. It made making a college decision way harder, and having to pick a school by May 1, 2020, was terrifying, and I had to take a leap of faith in choosing schools. While COVID-19 has taken so much, I have learned so much about how to adapt in new circumstances.
COVID-19 has given me a lot of time to reflect, and I have learned so much during this time. As a whole, it has highlighted how much our generation and society is in constant motion, and this pandemic has shown how difficult it is for us to slow down and just be. It has also highlighted how so many households are not perfect and how going to work or school is an escape, as divorce rates and domestic abuse rates have gone up since quarantine.
"While there is so much bad happening with this pandemic, I choose to look at the positive and the big picture." - Olivia Gaston '20, senior at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child
However, on a personal level, I have learned so much about myself. I have been able to spend much more time with my family, which I do not usually get to do because of our crazy schedules and how I drive myself everywhere. Looking back on senior year, there was never a break in activities between college visits, community service, fencing practices, and homework. There was never a time to just be. I am so grateful for this time now. I have been able to do things that I never did before — such as learning my mom’s cooking recipes. I have taken more time to journal, meditate, and practice forms of self care.
While there is so much bad happening with this pandemic, I choose to look at the positive and the big picture. I believe this was a way for the world to slow down and reflect on what is important. We get so busy and caught up with work or school that we do not get to be with ourselves, God, or our families. This was God’s way to get us to be closer to ourselves, each other, and Him — and for that, I am grateful.
Olivia Gaston '20, of Morristown, is a senior at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit, New Jersey. During her senior year, she earned a Certificate of Achievement by the Northern New Jersey Committee of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for her efforts to advance racial equity. She will be attending Emory University in the fall.