By Sophia Lewis (V)

The entirety of 2020 was definitely one for the history books, but when I think back to the past year, I think of January and February most––the two months before the pandemic hit full-force. Almost one year ago, the first case of the coronavirus was diagnosed in the United States. Though a serious matter, the general public was naïve to what this meant, as COVID-19 still seemed to be “that virus ravaging China.” By February, I saw only a couple of people wearing masks in public, and the only thought crossing my mind was: “Why are they wearing masks?” More time passed, and instead of reading the news and worrying about what COVID-19 spread actually meant, I was preparing to perform in Pingry’s rendition of Chicago and participate in my first year of serenades with the Balladeers. On March 13, however, all my plans halted. 

The year turned around completely. The day I was supposed to be packing my suitcase for the annual Disney trip with the softball team, I was buying extreme amounts of toilet paper and groceries with my mom, still grieving over the fact that school would be remote for a month. Nobody knew what the future would hold; instead of enjoying spring activities, concluding yet another tedious school year, and readying ourselves for the much-anticipated summer break, we were shut up in our homes with nothing to look forward to, except trying to figure out what exactly remote school was and wondering where exactly the mute button on Google Meet was. On the last day of school, instead of feeling triumph, I felt tired. Instead of going to the beach, seeing friends at camp, or travelling with our families over the summer, we had only one option: online programs, and the furthest traveling we did was to the kitchen.

After what seemed like a never-ending summer, Pingry announced that they would be inviting students back to school in person, and I was thrilled. Although optimistic about my first day back in September, I remember the day as bleak, as everything I’d liked about school had been eliminated. After the conclusion of the day, I had heard the phrase “new normal” so much, I could’ve screamed. Lunch, which was once an enjoyable time for eating and socializing, was now a challenge, as communicating with friends through the plexiglass barriers proved to be an impossible task. The worst of it all, however, was that I didn’t truly mentalize being a junior, as I had never gotten a proper conclusion of sophomore year. 

After looking back at the year, the prevailing question is this: where are we now, one year later? We arrive at school in masks, attend class with plexiglass barriers, and socialize with social distancing. Most contact sports and extracurriculars have been delayed or canceled, but others activities move forward, with restrictions, of course. All activities, in and out of school, have had complete structural changes. Eating at restaurants or going to see movies with friends are activities of the past. Concerts, baseball games, or just about anything with a large crowd involved are nothing more than a mere memory; just the sight of a large crowd is enough to scare people back into their homes. 

Despite the challenges, the pandemic is in a different spot now than it was one year ago. We now have two vaccines that have been approved and have begun being administered to the public. In addition, after a year, mask-wearing has become the “norm”. While it can be argued that any “silver lining” pointed out about COVID-19 at this time is not very promising, I do believe that there have been some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities during this pandemic era. So, with our masks on, let’s look for the light at the end of the tunnel.