Busy streets. Deafening sounds of vehicle horns. The irresistible aroma of Kwek-kwek, Fishball, and other Filipino street foods. And the wide smiles of the students every after class. I can still vividly remember how an everyday school dismissal looks like. It was worthwhile. Not until one day, everything changed in a blink of an eye. An unprecedented crisis entered and interrupted our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic. No one expected it. No one was ready. No one thought it would happen. We were all stuck in our homes because of the mandatory health protocols implemented worldwide. It affected our daily living big time. Routines were forcibly changed. Schools and workplaces were closed. Businesses were shut down. Most people lost their jobs. It was just a matter of survival. It was something terribly different. Full of adjustments and hardships. It felt like imprisonment, not having the freedom to do things you used to do. Just like how a face mask covers half of our faces as it serves as a wall of protection from the virus. This pandemic has been a barrier for easy communication and physical interaction. Needless to say, the transition from the normal world to the situation we are in today was challenging and crucial. I should say losing a loved one is difficult, but it's even more so in our situation today. I lost a good friend, a dedicated educator, and a selfless grandmother on the verge of this pandemic. We were not able to see them for the last time because of the prohibitions from the health department. It was something unwanted and was just a result of having no choice. I fought something bigger than the virus in this pandemic. I suffered from anxiety. I was not used to not having good grades after good grades, medals after medals and praises after praises. I dwelled on my insecurities and flaws. I felt like the odds were never in my favor. Slowly, every morning felt like I just needed to survive a day and I'm done. That I'm just a living organism wanting to escape the harsh realities of the world. That time was one of the moments I wish I were a kid again. That I'll just play minecraft or watch Barbie: The Princess charm school to ease the pain away. I started to question God because of the tragedies that have happened in my life. But after days of being empty and nights full of tears. I realized something. What are the chances of a person living in a city with existing local transmission and rising cases day by day to be Covid-free for almost 2 years. What are the chances of a person to be privileged enough to eat three times a day, have a family to be with through all these, and be able to study despite this pandemic? What are the chances of a person to be able to breathe fresh air rather than inhaling from an incubator? To be alive and kicking today is already a precious gift. The moment I accepted my imperfections, my flaws and my whole being, I began to see life in a bigger, better and brighter picture. I've come to the point where I continuously embrace not just my strengths, but also my weaknesses. I decided to feel human again by not letting my expectations and my thoughts define who I am. I chose to live without regrets, just gratitude. I always wondered about the things that I can do and how I can achieve those things. I explored myself. I bonded with my family more. As a matter of fact, we'd watch Netflix movies every friday night! I learned to check up on my friends and chat with them every once in a while. I started to play different musical instruments passionately. Those instruments include the harp, the kalimba and my favorite, the piano. Because of that, I became our church's pianist and safe to say, I have improved my people skills. Though face-to-face classes and interactions were banned, I found a way to enlarge my environment. I connected with people through joining online youth organizations. I should say my birthday this year is the best. Instead of having a glamorous party, I chose to celebrate it with street children, and it was fun! To satisfy my love for literature, I participated in writing webinars and joined international writing competitions like this! Fortunately, I won an outstanding position over 1500 participants in the International Creative Writing Competition organized by India. Sometimes, we forget to appreciate the beauty of life because we focus on our downfalls and shortcomings. There are still so many things to be grateful for. Look around and see what the universe can offer. Use it to your advantage, for you to grow and to be the best version of yourself. Always strive to get better each day, even if you're not in the best situation and in the best circumstance. Never let any catastrophe, even this pandemic, ruin the person you were, the person you are and the person you will be. Find your sanctuary of peace in a chaotic world. There will always be light in the darkness.
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