I remember when I found out about COVID-19 for the very first time. I was on a long subway trip heading home; I think it was from church. My phone pinged – someone had sent a PDF file in the group chat we made to organize an upcoming drama performance assessment for school. It was a statement from the Education Bureau announcing that classes would be suspended for the next two weeks.
At the time, we thought it was a temporary precaution. Just two weeks, right? We were excited about getting two weeks off school (a free public holiday!) and we were speculating about what it would mean for our performance. We were confident that the governmental and health agencies would handle the pandemic, and that our lives would go on.
Then the suspension was extended another week. And then another two weeks. Then another month. And that became two months. Then three. We got mixed messages: rumors from friends, teachers who didn’t know any more than we did, news outlets speculating different things, our parents voicing fear, annoyance, caution. The themes of hygiene and safety became regular dinner-table topics. I think the ironic thing, in retrospect, was that the question “When will it end?” was asked most frequently at the pandemic’s beginning.
The drama performance was eventually done online, and all other lessons moved to an online medium. I remember a strange atmosphere in those lessons. Everyone was trying to get used to this “new normal,” this online format, but at the same time teachers and students alike constantly spoke about the equipment we no longer had access to, or the things we could no longer do.
The hardest thing was the social isolation. I thought of my school as my second home, and my teachers and friends as my second family. I missed my school dearly. Being stuck at home, it was like school had lost its excitement and its glamor. I once commented on the irony of a poster slogan: “Together, we fight the virus!” that advocated for the practices of isolation from being together.
Now, as we are entering 2023, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. I was fortunate to have had a scholarship ceremony and graduation ceremony. We have vaccines. The mask mandate was lifted. Life has finally returned to normal for the most part. The silver lining in the cloud that has been chasing us, that we have been hiding from, is the newfound appreciation of the ordinary moments.
I’m thankful to be able to walk through Vancouver and breathe in the fresh air, feel the cool, crisp wind on my face without it being hidden by a mask. I’m so grateful that church has resumed (it’s really not the same online) and that I’m able to go to friend’s houses, hang out and have fun again.
I’m thankful for the ability to be together again.