The Power of Comebacks, Big and Small

The Power of Comebacks, Big and Small

By Meghan Durkin (VI)

If you’re a golf fan like me, you spent your Super Bowl weekend watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open—and yes, the game as well. Perhaps, the biggest storyline of the tournament was an unlikely, yet familiar, name at the top of the leaderboard going into Sunday: Jordan Spieth. Spieth, a three-time Major champion, who was once ranked the world’s No. 1 golfer for 26 consecutive weeks, hasn’t won a tournament since 2017, a three-and-a-half year dry spell that has seen him fall out of the top 50 in world rankings. At the Phoenix Open, for the first time in far too long, Spieth looked like the player of old: he had a career-high ten birdies in Saturday’s round and went into the final round tied for first at 18 under par. As a fan of Spieth’s, and of golf, it was exciting: a potential resurgence of a top talent who seemed to have lost his game. A win, however, was not in the cards for Spieth, who played a lackluster final round and finished fourth. I was disappointed, to say the least. 

But, Jordan Spieth’s almost-win reminded me of what I love so much about sports: the comeback. There is nothing like watching a once-great talent re-emerge from defeat to reclaim their past glories. Think Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory, his first Major title since the 2008 U.S. Open. Or, think of Shaun White claiming his third Olympic gold medal at PyeongChang in 2018, following a fourth place finish four years earlier. For a more recent “comeback,” and if you’re more of a soccer fan, think of John Stones’ resurgence in Manchester City’s first team this season. 

Like Spieth, many more athletes continue to push for a concrete comeback of their own. Take Serena Williams, who is facing a career downturn following the birth of her first child. Williams has lost her last four Grand Slam finals, a stat that has slowed her chase of the all-time Grand Slam singles’ titles record. While failing to hold this record will likely weigh little on her already stacked legacy as a player, her accomplishments, at least to fans, feel incomplete. 

Maybe this is unfair, but the truth is, the story of a comeback never fails to be a great one, especially for the fans. Sports, in its mirroring of life, presents the ultimate lesson of “you can only be on top for so long.” For professional athletes, success is hard to earn, yet so easy to lose. Being at the pinnacle of one’s sport and the height of one’s career, almost always ends unforgivingly and without return. Thus, when fans are invited to witness the return of a talent and player they grew to adore, the feeling is nothing less than elation, and the story worthy enough to be front-page news.  

Unfortunately, no—we can’t all be Tiger or Serena, but I’d like to think we all have fans rooting for our comebacks too (albeit many less). As the greats would tell us: in times of success, when our putts are sinking and shots dropping, we have to grab at every opportunity; we have to take our moments and squeeze everything out of them. And inevitably, when our good luck relinquishes and we’re off our game, we have to know: our fans are behind us; our people are pulling for us. Just ask Spieth, Williams, White, or Woods: everyone loves a comeback, even one for you. 

On Stupid Mistakes and Stubborn Conviction

On Stupid Mistakes and Stubborn Conviction

By Noah Bergam (VI)

A gentle chorus of crackling leaves caught my attention on a midday walk. It was a curious, contradictory sound, a fractal hum of tiny collisions. I walked across the curb, took three steps into the edge of the icy forest, and looked for the culprit in the autumn detritus. Nothing. I tried to blink away the quarantine eye strain. Still nothing, yet the hum intensified. When I turned back to the street, I saw the pavement dancing with miniscule ice pellets, white crystals popping in and out of solid existence. 

I smiled. The clouds caught me by surprise with their absurdity. I wanted revenge. A childish urge brought me back to the curb, in search of a sizable piece of hail. Drivers passed me by with confused looks as I patiently combed the cold asphalt for something worthy. Searching, searching––jackpot!

I showed it to my mother. It was a beautiful crystal, about a centimeter in diameter, chiseled like a true polyhedron. It was incredible how slow it was melting. Come to think of it, it didn’t really melt at all.

This isn’t ice, she told me. It’s road salt.

It took her about five seconds to notice the discrepancy. Meanwhile, I held the crystal for about five minutes in my glove, with the firm belief that it was ice.

Nature: 2. Noah: 0. In this dramatic turn of events, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. I wanted to laugh it off, but I also felt a dire need to understand the mental glitch which led me to this moment. I felt a tinge of that self-correcting hysteria that every Pingry student knows so well: the pain of the stupid mistake. The arithmetic error, the glaring typo, the misread question. In the craft of perfection, from 1600s to 36s to A+s, stupid mistakes must be rooted out ruthlessly. They cannot be treated as inevitable, even as every stupid mistake inevitably stems from the same essential quality: stubborn conviction. 

Of course, when it comes to career paths like airplane pilots and police officers, the mindset of perfectionism is not just admirable but societally necessary. However, in the context of academics and pedagogy, when ideas and curiosity are at stake rather than people’s lives, I think it’s important to lighten up on our approach to stupid mistakes. It’s healthier for students to expect to incur stupid mistakes in their educational careers, to value original conviction more than painstaking perfection. Of course, the way most curricula are structured––at Pingry and beyond––this is not a reasonable expectation. Test-taking is a fundamentally perfectionist pursuit, designed to help us strangle our stupid mistakes and fit our thinking to the model laid out in front of us. If we want to encourage students to think for themselves and adopt strong opinions with a healthy mindset, we ought to transition to more research-oriented, discussion-based models. Critical essays in particular ought to extend beyond English class. I’d like to see more math students reading and writing research rather than spitting back formulas––perhaps one of them might come across the Hairy Ball Theorem, which I think offers us a particularly nice illustration of this entire discussion. The theorem states that a sphere covered with hair cannot be entirely combed down; that a planet with wind must have a point on its surface where the air is not moving. So too is any person with an opinion going to have tufts and wrinkles in the fabric of their reasoning. It’s up to them to seek out those logical inconsistencies, to actively smoothen them out while understanding that the topology of ideas is never perfect.

Stubborn conviction is a fundamental part of our humanity and our intellectual legacies as scholars. It’s what gives us the passion to voice political opinions and invest time into civil discourse. It’s what gives us the courage to propose new theorems and theories. It’s what imbues a dreary January hail storm with an air of youthful adventure.

In Defense of Introverts

By Meghan Durkin (VI)

Following a recommendation from a friend to my mom, and then to me, I ordered a copy of Susan Cain’s “Quiet”—and well, the rest of the title spoils its thesis, so I’ll wait on that. The book follows society’s distaste for introversion, a trait Cain notes is seen as “a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology” (Cain 4). Well, if introversion is a “pathology,” then extroversion is its cure. Society loves to love extroverts; we admire charismatic speakers and outgoing performers more than we care for quiet bookworms. Pingry too loves to praise its extroverts: if you’re not a voice in discussion, were you there at all? I love Cain’s book for its unparalleled argument against these values; the aforementioned title, a glimpse into the book that follows, ends like this: “The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

This call for extroversion begins in a fundamental place: schools. Cain begins her book with an acknowledgement of this: “at school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of shell’—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same” (6). Cain recognizes the natural incompatibility many introverted students have with school. You have to talk.  

I’ve experienced many of the “come out of your shell” comments as a Pingry student. My interim reports never fail to mention that I’m “not the biggest talker” or “a dominant presence” in class; a particular favorite comment of mine is “she could benefit from getting involved even more in conversations.” Now, I do wish I was more comfortable with my status as a “quiet student,” yet it’s difficult not to see the introverted, soft-spoken part of my personality as an unshakeable weakness. 

Often, what you say is greater than what you write, do, or present. Without a voice in demand of attention, your other contributions fall short. Unfortunately, not all strengths are made equal. More than ever, there’s a demand for “soft-skills.” Everyone, from friends to teachers to bosses, wants people who excel in communication and teamwork, or are confident and humorous. Our culture, and our school, admire “people skills” above everything: unfortunately, for many introverts, these skills don’t always come naturally. 

Thus, here’s my take. 

For students: it’s good to play to your strengths. Yes, there are benefits to stepping out of your comfort zone, but there’s validity in doing that on your own terms. If you like being quiet, be quiet. If you like to talk, then talk. Extroversion is not a trait of success, just as introversion isn’t a recipe for failure. Maybe find a little bit of both. 

To Pingry teachers: forcing uncomfortable students to speak is not a reliable tool to change your “quiet” students into “talkative” ones. More often than not, it perpetuates a sense of inadequacy for a trait people are incapable of changing. Why can we only celebrate the people that lead the conversation? What about the thoughtful, attentive listeners? Or the students who bring creativity? Organization? How did we conclude loud is a far better quality than quiet? Why have Pingry teachers fostered learning environments that suit their extroverted students far more than any others? 

While I often wish I could be, I am not the loudest in the room. I hate volunteering to answer questions, I don’t like raising my hand, and I don’t want to present in class. There is a constant fight circulating in my mind when I try to do so, and it’s often I fight I lose to my introversion. Though, as Susan Cain suggests in her book, introverts have something unique to offer our loud, hectic world: some quiet.

Stop Calling Things Interesting

By Noah Bergam (VI)

George Orwell once wrote that our language “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

I wish Orwell could have seen Twitter. 

But look––this isn’t a rant about social media per se, or even political discourse. I want to talk about “slovenly” language specifically as it relates to the learning experience. The word of the day is “interesting,” a word used and abused so often inside the classroom that it’s become a default response, an easy out to intellectually discourse.

If we want to challenge ourselves as learners, we ought to ponder: what does “interesting” really mean? How long does the comment at hand capture the imagination? Does it trigger new thoughts and connections? 

Maybe you had a genuine intellectual dopamine rush. You’ve dug deep, and you’ve found that there’s really no justification except an appreciation for the underlying beauty of a Faulkner passage or a clever computer algorithm. That’s okay. To an extent, it’s necessary. We all ought to stop and smell the roses every once in a while, especially in fast-paced, lecture-heavy STEM courses. But when it comes to the humanities, where student insight reigns supreme, we should be more mindful of our language. 

After all, we don’t write book reviews in English class. We write critical essays, make evidence-based arguments in our writing––and we should expect no different from our verbal discussions. The core issue with “interesting” is that it effectively cuts out the need for justification, turning commentary into a passive, antiquarian pursuit. 

As we saw earlier, Orwell voiced his concerns about the feedback loop between words and thoughts. But while Orwell speaks of language that is “foolish,” I’m more concerned with that which is vacuous. We have a word at our disposal that can mask critical thought and make the classroom far more comfortable than it ought to be. In the drain of hybrid learning, we have every incentive to use this word to patch up complications, misunderstandings, turning discussions into strings of weak non-sequiturs. Whether you are a teacher or a student, I implore you to be cautious. “Interesting” makes Zoom learning more remote than it has to be.

And no, “fascinating” is not better. Maybe we could hear “scintillating” a little more often, but ultimately, all these one-word substitutions reach the same dead end. There’s no easy answer to the linguistic dilemma at hand. It takes a community-wide consciousness to limit our use of the i-word. If you hear it, ask for follow-up. If you use it, provide some. 

Keep in mind your agency over language. If you want a classroom that’s more than just “interesting,” it starts with you.

Technical Dilemmas

By Meghan Durkin (VI)

I fill my time with endless technological stimulation; when the weekly notification pops up, informing me of an alarmingly high screen time, I’m embarrassed. I balance my phone on my laptop to watch two shows at once, fall asleep clutching my laptop more often than I’d like to admit, and wonder how numerous hours have passed, it’s dark, and I’m still on a “quick Netflix break.”

It’s normal though, right? Everyone is constantly on their phones; there is simply no downtime from technology. Phones offer a nice distraction, an endless Band-Aid that coats our worries with instant gratification and content. That’s our normal, and I find it fascinating. 

So, when the recent buzz around The Social Dilemma surfaced, I grabbed my phone, opened Netflix, and sat down for a watch. The documentary explores the negative impacts of social media, from its ramifications on mental health to its addictive properties. Not only does The Social Dilemma stress the cruel motives behind social platforms, but it also uses the creators of these platforms to deliver the message. These creators range from former executives at Twitter and Facebook to the former president of Pinterest and numerous other early team members from the world’s most popular social media platforms. It’s scary that even those who helped build these “tools,” fear the damage they’ve inflicted.

Unfortunately, there is no group more at risk from these technologies than teens; the platforms we’ve inherited present one of our greatest challenges as a generation, especially in terms of mental health. As The Social Dilemma mentions, the rise in suicide rates for teens has skyrocketed since the birth of social media. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased 56% over the last decade, an distressingly rapid increase.

Though there is nothing new to the claims that social media is “harmful,” The Social Dilemma got me thinking: if we know how harmful it is, why can’t we stop using it? Here’s my thought: we can’t stop using social media because even those who tell us to “put the phone down”  can’t help but force us to use it more and more.  

Take Pingry’s social media presence for example. While we are constantly told to get off our phones, or focus in class, the school itself uses social media platforms to endorse itself or inform its community. With the addition of Pingry Plus this year, a platform directly aimed at students, the irony cannot be lost. The same people that urge students to waste less time on our phones, give us more reasons to use them.

Thus, more than anything else, The Social Dilemma opened my eyes to the greater hypocrisy of social networking. The platforms are created by those who denounce using it, are criticized by schools who profit from it, and complained about by older generations who swarm to the platforms. And through it all, we are the generation that ultimately suffers for it. 

It’s terrifying to think we never free our minds from our screens; we inhibit the wandering of our thoughts and contemplation of wants by filling our space with social media. We watch videos while we eat breakfast, listen to podcasts while we walk, and play music while we exercise. Though, I’d like to think it’s not exactly our fault. These platforms, created by an older generation to monopolize on the weakness of a younger one, are meant to be addicting. Even Netflix, the greatest time-suck of them all, knows we aren’t the ones at fault. 

Skimming the Pages

By Noah Bergam (VI)

I get a lot of snail mail these days. Almost each letter falls into one of two categories: college advertisements or campaign literature from the local Malinowski vs. Kean election. 

College season and election season. What a fun combination. One moment, I’m skimming through my second copy of UChicago’s “The Life of the Mind,” and the next, I’m bouncing between Toms, comparing the “Dangerous Pelosi Liberal” to the Pingry grad who is purportedly “bought off by the healthcare industry.” But really, my investigation is more cursory than thorough. Smooth pictures, flashy text, the ephemeral feel of fresh ink––then it’s off to the pile, and I return to my college essays to spend hours tweaking the prose of a single paragraph.

Marketing yourself and your content is a draining process. I think we all know it. Every little detail seems to matter so much as we craft applications, performances, newspaper layout––and yet, when we absorb the content of others, we naturally skim and simplify, reducing hours of someone’s painstaking work into a fleeting glance. 

To an extent, such behavior is warranted. The Internet, and, by extension, the world, inundates us with enough content and worries to last each of us literally thousands of lifetimes. Sometimes I feel like I’m barely staying afloat in the great ocean of information. I feel like my laptop, operating on eight measly megabytes of marginal storage. One more Zoom call, one more Chrome tab, and I’ll crash. 

I suspect this is a common apprehension among our student community. We’re all overworked, keeping tabs on a thousand different endeavours in and outside the classroom. All the while, we’re trained to chase leadership and become the best at whatever we do––but we’re not all that disposed towards appreciating the things that others do, whether it’s trying out a peer’s club, or reading a student publication, or cheering on a friend at a sports game. 

We can all fancy ourselves to be stars in our own respective realms, but ultimately, we’re bound to be part of the audience more often than we are to be on stage, and it would probably benefit our school culture to take that concept to heart a little more often. We ought to truly consider who we are as audience members, as readers, fans, and listeners. Is your experience in this community just a cursory flip through fancy pages, or is it something deeper, more connected and appreciative? 

Instead of immediately recycling the letters, I decided to keep them in a pile for a little while longer. It stings a bit to let them go so fast, because I know someone, somewhere in the universe, worked hard on these magnificent missives. They deserve a little respect.

Parting Pictures of Jake Ross: A Rhetorical Analysis

By Noah Bergam (V), Justin Li (V), and Aneesh Karuppur (V)

June 18, 2020

On the evening of June 11, the Pingry community received an email from Head of School Matt Levinson and the Board of Trustees confirming that Mr. Jake Ross was fired from The Pingry School. A few hours earlier, an apology email which Mr. Ross had sent to the baseball team earlier in the week began to circulate around the student body, and gained more public visibility as a result of an email from Alexandra Weber ‘20 sent to juniors and seniors; in her email, Weber stated that Mr. Ross had been barred by “the administration” from sending his apology to the whole school. The next day, a group of students, backed by over 600 petition signatures, sent an email to the Board of Trustees asking them to reinstate Mr. Ross.

Here is how we interpret the situation, according to the content and rhetoric of the Board’s June 11 termination letter, Mr. Ross’ apology letter, and the students’ June 12 letter to the Board.

On the week of June 8, an Instagram account operated by Pingry parents known as “_bigbluebaseball_” posted a picture of Mr Ross and the seniors on the boys’ baseball team, holding a banner that read “Everything Matters.” Some Pingry students thought the timing of this banner was in bad taste, since it resembled the slogan “All Lives Matter,” which is used as a protest against the Black Lives Matter movement. 

If the June 11 letter from the Board answered one thing directly, it was that Mr. Ross was not fired for the Instagram post itself. Rather, he was fired for disrespectful conduct towards “school administrators,” including Mr. Levinson, when they attempted to “engage the community in dialogue” about the post and its impact. 

Why was Mr. Ross disrespectful? Rather than providing any direct insight into the context of his frustration, or affirming the confidentiality of such context, the June 11 letter expounds on the idea that the conduct was part of a longer pattern of bad behavior: “This is also not the first instance in which he has demonstrated poor judgment and disrespect. We have learned there have been other instances that have resulted in a demotion of leadership responsibilities.” These words attack Ross’ character in past, possibly unrelated incidents rather than shedding light on the moment that actually caused him to get fired. 

Moreover, the vocabulary describing Mr. Ross in this email is much harsher than that used to describe Mr. Graig Peterson in the August 27, 2019 email which announced Peterson’s firing in the wake of his use of “extensive, non-school-related electronic communication with several Upper School students.” In the August 27 email, written by Mr. Levinson and Upper School Director Ms. Chatterji, the only directly negative word used to describe Peterson’s behavior was “inappropriate,” whereas the June 11 email condemns Ross’ behavior with phrases such  “unprofessional and inappropriate,” “unacceptable and antithetical to our values,” and “poor judgment and disrespect.” The June 12 petition letter pointed out the “usually strong terms used to characterize this incident,” going so far as to say that “the Dean Ross you described is not the Dean Ross we all know and love.”

The June 11 letter props up the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, treating Ross’ termination as a stepping stone towards that goal. The letter begins by quoting Mr. Levinson (or, as the letter colloquially refers to him, “Matt”) about his determination to uphold Pingry’s “inclusivity, honor, respect, and civic engagement” and ends with actions the school will take towards making a more inclusive educational environment. The aforementioned, overtly negative depiction of Ross, bookended by positive descriptions of the inclusive mission of the Board and Mr. Levinson in particular, implies that Mr. Ross personally stood in the way of this mission, and moreover that his termination contributed to the school’s goals of diversity and inclusion: “This letter and the actions below are only the first step.”

In his apology letter, Ross takes on a very different style from the Board; while the June 11 letter is self-promoting and, with 29 authors, profoundly impersonal, Ross’ letter establishes a voice that acknowledges mistakes and commits to personal change: “I clearly missed this one, but I will learn. I will be better.” Ross’ language is perhaps not as professional and self-assured as the Board’s (“The emotional rage and hurt I feel each time I think about what it must be like to be a black person in America, is not something I can convey in an email”) yet it embodies his open, relatable style as a leader, which the June 12 petition letter from students defends as a quality that allowed him, as a dean, to contribute to diversity and inclusion at Pingry with “sensitivity, dignity, and swiftness.” 

The June 12 petition letter takes a sharp stance against the rhetoric of the June 11 message, stating that the “vagueness of the statements in the letter we received has also done little to assuage our concerns about the handling of this incident.” It implies that the June 11 email increased the very “deepening polarity” it pointed out and may have broken the Honor Code principle of “confidentiality in disciplinary proceedings” considering how it “so readily and publicly humiliate[d] a colleague.” Ultimately, the letter makes a bold request to the Board: “rectify your mistake by reinstating him.”

As of June 19, The Board of Trustees and Mr. Levinson have yet to respond.

We do not know much about the situation surrounding Mr. Ross’ misconduct: neither its severity nor its source. What we do know is that, between the language that the Board and Mr. Levinson used to describe Ross, and the language used by students and Ross himself, we have two very different pictures of the former dean––one depicting a disrespectful figure who stood in the way of diversity and inclusion, and the other depicting a crucial part of the Pingry community who actively supported the endeavour. 

Beefing Up Economics Education at Pingry

By Noah Bergam (V)

The bipartisan government report on the 2008 Financial Crisis and the Great Recession paraphrased Shakespeare in its analysis: “The fault lies not in the stars, but in us.”

I read parts of this report, as well as numerous other sources, for a history project, and it was really eye-opening how much I learned about the human nature that plays into economics, from perverse incentive to predatory lending to, ultimately, the ethical dilemma of the bailout. 

Over the course of my entire childhood which existed in the backdrop of this Recession, I never really understood the event and the different interpretations of it that persist to this day. Talking to some classmates, I realize this gap in knowledge might be more widespread than I thought, and it makes sense; in all our years of coursework, we never had the chance to sit down and actually discuss it.

The economics around me only became more eye-opening when, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, I sought to educate myself on some of the systemic racism in our country. From there I discovered the sheer severity of racial wealth inequality in this country and the covert redlining which contributes to it. This is once again something I knew vaguely, but I wish I could have learned about it in detail in a structured classroom environment. It should not have taken a national crisis to learn this.

On this note I would like to make a request. Pingry should mandate economics education throughout all four years of high school, teaching not only good practices for personal finances but also looking at systemic issues, both past and present, to examine their causes. 

In our current system, aside from the one trimester of Financial Literacy in freshman year and the online Financial Literacy coursework in senior year, Pingry students need not think about economics unless they have the interest and the space in their schedules to take a course in it. 

That’s not enough.

And look, I know it’s easier said than done to ask Pingry to teach more of this or that. But I think economics as a subject, in the context of the kinds of issues that I brought up, stands out from the crowd of other subjects. I say this not only because of its obvious usefulness for students as future consumers but also its importance right now in terms of intellectual discourse.

Understanding economics is a civic duty. It makes us question policy rather than assume someone else has it all figured out.  It can also help us have more fact-based discussions surrounding social issues in America, which may help open students up to discussions of privilege and diversity and inclusion more than our current, opinion-based approaches. 

Four years of economics education would make for a continuity that the current system lacks. Additionally, it would not be particularly hard to implement for the sophomore and junior classes, for it should not require new hirings or substantial schedule changes – in fact, it should exist outside the course schedule and be largely asynchronous, with progress marked by quizzes or short responses. 

However, for the more curious students, there should be occasional, optional meetings where students can discuss some of the material with an economics teacher and ask questions. Think of it like an addition to our community service requirements. A requirement for the intellectual well-being of Pingry students, and moreover an opportunity for interested students to engage in the subject. 

Ultimately, we’re living in history. That should have been evident since 2008, and it is more than evident now. Our financial literacy curriculum, moving forward, should reflect that.

Positivity During COVID-19

Positivity During COVID-19

By Andrew Wong (IV)

If I had to pick a headline to summarize the entire COVID-19 pandemic here in America, it would have to be “North Carolina Man Steals Truck With 18,000 Pounds of Toilet Paper”. In a close second would probably be our good friend, the Florida Man with, “Florida Man Steals 66 Rolls of Toilet Paper”. In this time of great struggle and uncertainty in our nation, and indeed the entire world, it has become evident that it is fear, not reason, that drives the decision making of not just the two aforementioned characters, but also that of the entire world. We’ve all seen the news. Videos of people fighting over the last bag of rice at the supermarket. Lines stretching out the door of big box stores. As my friends across the world can confirm, there is not a single scrap of toilet paper to be found on store shelves anywhere. People are fearful, and it is evident that hope, just like toilet paper, is nowhere to be found.

      Yes, people do have a right to be scared. The statistics can speak for themselves: Over 2.6 million people have been infected globally, with more than 800,000 cases here in the US alone. The world economy has come grinding to a halt, and American jobless claims are at their highest in the last 10 years. Our everyday lives have come to a complete standstill, as everyone around the world practices social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Yet, with all of these tribulations and challenges that we face presently, there is a brighter side to this crisis — more than just the infection numbers, death toll, or economy the media keeps yapping about. 

The coronavirus has brought out the best in America, a good side that many in our country did not believe exist. Our entire nation, once derided by political pundits as “hopelessly divided”, is now united in a great crusade to fight back against the coronavirus. On Capitol Hill, for what may be the first time in recent memory, Democrats and Republicans have found common ground in a bid to provide relief packages for all Americans. President Trump and New York Governor Cuomo, once bitter political enemies, now work together daily to direct government policy towards the virus. Governor Cuomo’s daily press conferences have now become regular viewing for millions of Americans trapped at home, as he continues to send messages of encouragement and positivity not just to the state of New York, but to the entire nation. 

Manufacturing companies have put aside their quest for profits to retool the production lines and make much needed PPE and ventilators. America’s biotech firms have now developed testing kits that can diagnose the virus in minutes and allow for more tests to be run, while scientists in laboratories across the globe work at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine in record time before winter arrives. 

           Doctors, nurses, and first responders in all 50 states are working tirelessly around the clock to contain this virus. It is thanks to the valiant work of our healthcare companies and professionals that the rate of infection is no longer exponential, and as Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said two weeks ago, “we’re seeing [the curve] stabilize, and that gives us great encouragement”. 

Social Media, once criticized as a force that only divided society, has now become the very thing holding everyone together while we are all separated. Crowdfunding campaigns to save local businesses from the economic tsunami caused by COVID-19. In New York City alone, thousands upon thousands of dollars have been raised by New Yorkers on GoFundMe to support local restaurants and stores who have been forced to close due to the pandemic. John Kransinski, of The Office fame, publishes new videos detailing good news happening around the world on YouTube every day to try and keep people positive during social distancing. New quarantine food trends, such as Dalgona coffee and no-knead bread have become popular as a result of these easy but tasty recipes being shared on the internet. Facebook groups have been set up to help provide groceries, toiletries, and home cooked meals to the elderly in order to keep them protected from the virus. 

But the coronavirus hasn’t just brought out unprecedented goodness within our communities. It’s also brought us new opportunities. While COVID-19 may have forced us all to social distance inside, this new reality presents a whole host of opportunities for us. We have been given the gift of many months of free time, so what do we do with it? How about learning a new skill, or experimenting with new recipes? What else can you do with all that stockpiled food anyways?

Perhaps you could build a healthier lifestyle and use this time to build a better you. You could finish those side projects that you never had time for, or maybe start a new lifelong obsession with a new hobby. The choice is in your hands.

There is no way to know how long we will be inside, and based on the current numbers, there will be many more months, if not a year, before things return back to “normal”. But until then, as we witness the first great global crisis of the 21st century, an event that will be forever etched into the collective memory of our generation, let us be reminded that this crisis will be over some day. As we edge closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel, let’s put our best foot forward and do our best to remain positive through this tumultuous time. Let’s be inspired by the acts of kindness and humanity throughout the entire world and be our best selves. Let’s not allow our fear to control us, and instead remain hopeful that there are better days ahead of us. All we have to do is stay positive, keep smiling, and just believe.


The Light Behind the Dress

The Light Behind the Dress

By Brynn Weisholtz (VI)

As the sun rises each morning, I wake to see the light peeking through the shades in my bedroom window. In front of that window hangs a gown, my senior prom gown, draped from a hanger with nowhere to go. April 22nd was supposed to be the night of my senior prom, a night that my friends and I have looked forward to since walking through the clocktower doors many years ago. I find myself in a state of limbo, walking from floor to floor and room to room all within the walls of my home. I silently wonder, how can my senior year be slipping away this quickly? Is this really happening? What can I do to turn the shadows of the moment into light for what will ultimately be? 

As events started to get cancelled, part of me could only focus on the negatives of this tumultuous turn of events: no prom, no fashion show, no senior prank day, and possibly no graduation. The suddenly unnecessary prom dress casts a shadow on my outlook for the rest of my senior year and beyond. Towns that once were bustling with open businesses and families walking the streets now look more like ghost towns as masked people stop their cars for curbside pick up from their favorite local restaurants. How is life supposed to return to normal? Will we ever shake hands and talk to strangers on the street again? Will our town centers thrive once more?

As quarantine continued and classes began, I developed a morning routine, returning some normalcy to my day. I wake up, brush my teeth, put in contacts, and then start my commute: walk down the stairs, take a sharp right and then a quick left, and I have arrived at my destination, my classroom. While my classes don’t have the same level of energy virtually as they did when on campus, I know students and teachers alike are giving their all to remain upbeat and engaged. We hold on to what we can in the midst of what appears to be life spiralling out of control, and when the day ends I return to my room to see light coming through my prom dress in my window. 

The shadow of my prom gown is a subtle reminder of the darkness we all feel as a community, born from the uncertainty and loss of the familiar and the known, the expected and longed for, the mundane and extraordinary––but I choose to see the light. I choose to focus on the moments when the sunlight escapes and shines through the shadows, illuminating the silhouette of my dress and reminding me to embrace the here and now, to be thankful for those around me, and, above all, to be hopeful for the joys of life that will emerge in the days and months ahead.  

While the world is at a socially-distanced standstill, the ways the public has been able to shift into this new norm is nothing short of remarkable. In what felt like a blink of an eye, we’ve connected via our computers, reached out to old friends, checked in on our grandparents, and found appreciation for what was. We have embraced the unexpected family time that was once thought as long gone. My brother, another graduating senior, now lives at home for the first time in four years, bringing back game nights, family dinners, movie nights, wiffleball games in the backyard, and walks through our neighborhood.

Though I miss seeing my friends, having passing conversations in the hallways with teachers, and occupying Mr. Ross’ office, we as a community are making the best of everything. I continue to be inspired by those around me and optimistic for our collective futures. In light of this, I took down my prom dress from the window and let all the light shine through.