Towards the close of “The Great Gatsby,” one of my favorite novels of all time, Nick Carraway narrates effortlessly to his readers: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.”
Of course, Carraway (and F. Scott Fitzgerald) were referring to the broken ideals of the American Dream and Gatsby’s undying hope in Daisy. Nevertheless, Nick’s sentiment stayed with me ever since I read that line in seventh grade. I loved those words, loved how they sounded, and how I felt when I imagined the boats pushing triumphantly forward against rough waters. Reading that metaphor, I couldn’t help but feel powerful, feel larger-than-life.
As students, we’ve been out of school, and inevitably in quarantine, for about a month. Just last week, school was called off for the rest of the year by the state. In a literal sense, our “waters” might seem calm– barely anybody’s leaving the house, of course, unless it’s for a toilet paper run. But at least for me, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little let down. The waters aren’t as calm as they seem on the outside.
First, and for more emphasis, it’s a turbulent time to be living in. Even if you’re following recommendations of social distancing, constant phone alerts with the same word–coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus– are overwhelming when your whole news feed circles around it. It’s become a normal part of our vocabulary. That video circulating of a man being dragged off Philly public transport for allegedly not wearing a mask looks like a scene from a dystopian movie. Another news story about four members of the same family passing from COVID-19 shocked me into silence as I wondered what I would say if I got the chance to talk with one of their survivors.
But beyond all of the general fears of this time, there’s also bittersweetness, especially on behalf of the senior class. We had our last day; it was March 12. Whether we were prepared or not, it happened. And from the outpouring dismay I saw on social media, most of us weren’t, myself included.
We won’t celebrate Decision Day at school and wear our college T-shirts together. I won’t be able to deliver in-person thank-you notes to the teachers who so kindly wrote my recommendation letters. Even mundane things, like school lunches, or walks in the courtyard every morning, have been swept under the rug. For me, my final newspaper production week, along with other Stinger seniors, won’t happen in the beloved room 599. Staying at home lately made me realize just why I missed school: the socialization, the quality time in-person.
Now, all we can do is adapt.
For me, quarantine feels like the movie “Groundhog Day”: the same old, same old, over and over again, and it’s getting lonely. However, it’s also provided time for some much needed sleep, laziness, reflection, and for family. I finally finished up some long-awaited books and watched “Gone With the Wind”– did you know that movie is four hours long?
This time has proven to be a blessing in disguise. I know I’ll come out of quarantine with a greater appreciation for the time I get to spend with my friends and loved ones, for my health, and for the special parts of life I’ve overlooked.
To sum up, the best choice is to make the most out of the situation we have right now. While I’m not the first to admit that it’s difficult getting used to only seeing your friends through a screen, I know I’m benefitting from some me-time. (And Google Meets have definitely given me a few laughs.)
We’ve all come a long way. Let’s keep beating our boats against this current.