Covid-19 became such a catalyst in time for people and their lifestyles. It changed everyone for better and for worse. But there was definitely something we were able to benefit from, the ability to hear the silence and not have to worry about it being so quiet. Why it was so quiet or what we had to do to fix it, because it didn't need any fixing. I could walk into my room and exist in the silence, in such a pertinent time to the state of the world all I truly cared about was being able to feel peaceful. Being able to stare at the 4 walls around me and look to the ceiling and know there is nothing calling my name and no responsibilities I had but to just sit with myself. I didn't know what to do with myself, all this free time I had to myself being something I'd never imagined I'd ever have and don't think I will again. And not that that's bad, but I long to have that peace again. I never slept, but it worked in my favour, three years down the line I know what I want to do with my life. It never felt right staying stagnant in my room and my surroundings being the same. I would spend the late hours of the nights and early hours of the morning constantly moving and rearranging my room, the furniture would be turned sideways or shifted across the room for a new perspective. But the question still stands, what was I trying to achieve? Should my bed flush to the wall? Away from the wall? Would my dresser come off less demanding in the room if I placed it horizontally? I always found a way to change and analyse everything I changed and did. Then there was also the silence, of course there was never any actual silence, just the faint noises of my presence. The shuffling of my feet across the tile floor, the scraping of the furniture legs as it glided across the room. The television playing whatever movie I could think would make me feel serene. Some nights I'd come up with something to watch outrageously sad and end up just stopping what I was doing to sit on the floor and watch the saddest love stories, or other nights I'd be dancing along to Billy Elliot or even finding myself again and again in the characters on the screen. Every night was different, a different movie, a different layout and a different feeling. Usually spending the earlier hours of the morning filling the time doing something like editing a powerpoint between friends or clearing my closet or cutting my hair… again and again. In the impetuous days, it was funny how the nights became unhurried, steady and undemanding. Each day and night melting into one another, something that was such a cause for worry 3 years ago still feels so recent as yesterday. The busted little radio I spent days and nights trying to fix, the odd projects I would pick up thinking I had a hope of ever getting them to work again. Realising as the times passed all this fixing and rearranging was just a distraction from what I was really meant to be doing. This was the perfect time, the only time I may have had to do this, find myself. I tried everything, painting, cooking, baking, pottery, writing, everything you could dream of. But I was blind, I was always looking for some thing that would make me me, but that was the problem wasn't it? I tried to materialise my character, who I was trying to understand. Trying new things over and over again. But it all took me back to the quiet. That was who I was. That is who I am. I'm not a painter, or a cook, I'm the peace from dusk til dawn, or atleast that's what I feel when I am me. Sitting in my room, moving and changing, that's me. Unbothered, Uninterrupted, Unchanged but doing all those is what made me me. I was how I lived when at peace. How I functioned is this high anxiety time. Sitting and consuming the silence with movies of all genres and fixing everything around me. It was finding where I fit into my own life. And I have, going on to do what made me stop in my tracks from always trying to fix everything. I know I want to evoke the emotions in others that the movies did the me, I want to make people think, feel and cry. And I want them to fall in love and understand themselves just like I slowly but surely did.
My first memory of COVID was late at night in December of 2019. I saw it on the news, looking at my phone in a pitch black room – a room in the apartment my family had just moved into. An apartment that was small, 11 stories high, and about 7,000 miles away from where I used to call home. When I was ten, my parents shifted the entirety of my life by moving us to Kyoto, Japan. What made me remember this moment - looking at my phone at the news in the midst of unpacking and struggling to live in this completely new culture - is that I told people. I told others about COVID and everyone shrugged it off; as did I, not realizing it would change the trajectory of our lives – everyone's life. A few months later: It's February, 2020. Light was streaming in through the thin brown curtains of my open-windowed classroom at school, all 20 students sleeping on chairs or squishing onto the one stained couch at the back of the room, all looking for a cushioned seat to sink into. Three teachers were jammed in the room. First they said we would be wearing masks. I didn't think anything of it, as did everyone else. The following week, my teacher, standing in the shadows of the light bleached room, said we would all be going into online classes. Everyone was silent. No one understood. Throughout the next three years the borders in Japan stayed closed. Traveling back home over the summer required 5 hours of paperwork after 20 hours of flying, plus quarantine. Only at the start of this year did the Japanese government finally release their grasp on the Mask Mandate. Even today about 85% of people still wear masks; it's like a regularity now, a parasite that people have learned to live with and don't know how to live without. I was in online school for over nine months in total, and staying home wasn't the worst part - it was being told I was going to be able to go to school in person, and then a few weeks after actually being able to see people, we would have to go back into online school. March 2021: The waves licked at my feet in beautiful Okinawa Japan in the late afternoon during spring break. We had been at in-person school for five months when I got the email –- we would be going into online classes for two weeks. That turned into over two months. In the US people sat outside their houses on lawn chairs, talking to their neighbors through their windows. Japan doesn't have front lawns, or back ones. They have windows that are only opened when clothes need to be baked in the sun because dryers take too much space in the house. I talked to almost no one for a year, and, having just moved to a polar opposite country to the one I had been previously living in, I felt trapped in a cage labeled “overwhelmed.” For the first couple months where we lived free of COVID in Japan, there were many foreigners visiting. Where we lived, we weren't surrounded by only Japanese, but also those from the west who somewhat made it feel like home. Then, the borders closed, and the land was quiet. My world felt silent for two years. As I was able to begin riding the train again each morning, not trapped in my home, I realized how being foreign and living in Japan was not pleasing to some. The stares. People crossing to the other side of the street when you are near. Moving to a different bus seat when you get too close. Though every country experiences these problems, living in a closed-off Japan, trapped from the rest of the world - trapped me too. But then I met a girl online, and she filled my life with light. And soon I met another, who lived close by and came over to my house often. Though there were days I felt alone, I knew that I had wonderful people around me - and I will never forget the hilarious Zoom calls with my friends from school… I miss them. I moved back to the US in June, and not wearing a mask felt odd, but freeing. I now live in Texas, and I see that everyone talks to everyone. They are kind – they say excuse me if they are in your way, and they smile at you more often than not. Being in Japan, not talking to many people for so long due to language barriers and the extensive shut down COVID inflicted on the country made me realize how deficient I was in the complex action that was being social. Despite all of this, Japan was a blessing, and COVID wasn't a curse. It was painful; but it also made me stronger. I understood the meaning of looking out for myself, and to simply enjoy life as it was. Sitting at home and typing at my laptop for a whole summer resulted in an entire book that has infusions of my life in it, something I never would have done if COVID didn't occur and I didn't have the time. COVID resulted in me learning about myself, even if it was a struggle to realize that. Those four and a half years were worth it, even through the hard times, and experiencing the entirety of COVID in Japan, though difficult, allowed me to see the goodness in a newfangled place halfway across the world.
As I walked up the stairs that led to the platform stage, I could feel all 400+ eyes on me. I gulped, closing out my family's screams that followed my every step. It was only three years ago when I'd crawled out of freshman year with the heaviest bags under my eyes and all life drained from my body. Just those years ago, I'd lucked out on my finals, the stress of the next few years finally dawning on me. I'd probably imagined myself finally graduating from the mess that was my grades, and fleeing far away from my small town to a decent college in a bigger city that would look past my grades and focus on the load of activities I'd gotten myself involved in. But somehow, there I was. Three years later. Trying to find something tangible I'd accomplished in the recent years and almost finding none. Turns out the only things I'd brought out of a two year long pandemic were a new haircut and a tik tok personality. It was a reawakening, of course, realizing all that time passed by and I'd only spent it rising in ranks in video games and not in real life. I'd spent those two years learning all texting abbreviations that ever existed and how to access illegal websites to watch the latest movies for free. I was a master at everything but what mattered. Yet, I'd persevered and one way or another, made it to this stage. This stage that I thought wouldn't come for another three years because I realized, a bit too late, that I was still stuck in that freshman class, hearing for the first time, that school may be closed for a few weeks due to the outbreak of a deadly virus. My 14 year old mind had stayed frozen in time for those two years and I hadn't realized how fast time flew, oblivious to my lack of growth as I advanced through high school. So there I stood on the stage, hand extended towards my school's principal, expecting a credential that forged my accomplishments through the fancy words etched onto the cover page. When did accepting my high school diploma start making me feel like a fraud? I shook off the feeling and advanced, collecting the piece of paper while my family and friends screamed even louder. It was weird as I walked off the stage, my diploma clutched in hand and endless possibilities of the future that lay ahead whirling through my mind. It was weird the way the creases of the paper comforted me, reminding me of the tumultuous years I'd scathed through -a testimony not everyone could give. In that moment, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude engulfed every part of me and tears suddenly found my eyes. I wiped my eyes once I sat down and took in the scenery -the people- around me while a friend of mine mounted the stage, making the same face I had when I was in her place. It was then I realized that I wasn't alone in my thoughts. I looked around once more and saw similar expressions on almost every graduate's face. We were all overwhelmed with multiple emotions at once: confusion, surprise, regret and yet, pride. We were stringed along into a global pandemic that put a stop into our lives without warning and forced us into an immediate life of maturity. Just a few years ago, we were many years younger and looked far ahead at adulthood(and all that came with it), as a distant dream. But it came quicker than expected. That distant dream, now as near as the breaths we breathed, pushed us into the scary, unknown depths of adulthood; and all expectations that the 14 year old children of those years ago couldn't comprehend, had now become our realities. I prayed quickly in that second of unison that each of us would be able to make it through whatever else life threw at us, just as we'd survived through one of the greatest epidemics of our generation. In that, I hoped that the sadness that lingered in our hearts would give us the strength to move on with our lives having no hardships or regret.
We have all been languishing in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the impact of the pandemic and its consequences are felt differently depending on our status as individuals and as members of society. While some try to adapt to working online and homeschooling their children, others have no choice but to be exposed to the virus while keeping society functioning. I recognize that the pandemic has devastating effects on other minorities as well as on animals. On one of a summer day, I heard a cat's sound behind our door. Opening the door, I found a cute little kitten that was trying to find a place and something to eat. First, we gave him some food to eat, thinking that it was someone's kitten, who later would take him back. But all the day it was in the pass, and in the afternoon I took him to our apartment to feed. He felt himself comfortable in our apartment. We fell in love with this kitten so quickly that we decided to adopt him. Because my father also loves cats,he take him and stroke the kitten after coming home from work. After explaining all that had happened during the day, he allowed him to stay with us. That night we named him Leo, and the next day we took him to the vet clinic to get all the necessary vaccinations for him. After a few weeks, we found out that Leo was adopted by our neighbor, and because of their young children, they changed their minds and left him outside to find a new home. Leo was always active; he played games, strolled around the garden, and had a good appetite. One day we went to our hometown, Bukhara, with my family, and because no one was found to look after the cat, we took him with ourselves. After nine hours of riding, we arrived at our destination. We visited my grandmother's house, and as my cousins loved cats, they also adopted a cat from the street, but they haven't given him vaccinations. We stayed there for three days. Leo was happy to find a new friend, and they played together every day. When we come back to Tashkent, Leo has lost his appetite and has slept very much. We thought that he was having depression after losing his friend or that he was stressed after a long journey and didn't pay much attention. However, after two days, he started to walk with a limp. So we took him to the vet. They gave an injection and advised me to buy more vitamins like vitamin C, B, and K. We bought them and gave them to him every day after meals. But we didn't see any changes in his health, so we went to another veterinarian. They took an X-ray of his feet and an analysis of his blood and said that it would be ready in two days. After two days, we went to his doctor, and he said that Leo was down with FIP, which is known as the animal coronavirus. We were very worried about him since the doctor said that many dogs and cats died from this illness. So we asked what to do to keep him alive. He advised us to purchase three types of drugs. One of them was exactly for FIP, and the other two were for his liver, because, as a doctor said, in animals, the virus stops the liver from working. Later that day, we went to a few animal pharmacies to find the drugs that were written on a prescription. Because of the high demand for this kind of drug, many pharmacies didn't have it. We had a hard time finding the first medicine, which is called GS. This medicine was imported with a special order, and only one pill was 3,5 dollars.It was prescribed 1 pill per day for 84 days. Otherwise, the pills wouldn't have any effect, and the cat could die. We looked for it the whole day and finally found it at the biggest animal pharmacy in the city. First, we bought only five because of the price and limitations of the pharmacy's sale of five pills per order. Later, the pharmacy increased the amount to 10 pills per order, and we can buy them without showing the recipe every time. After a few days, my cousin called me and said that his cat was also walking with a limp and had a high temperature since we had left Bukhara. I told them to go to the vet. They went, and their doctor also recommended GS pills. We realized that when their cat interacted with other street cats, he was infected with this zymotic virus, and after coming home, he infected Leo, too. They didn't buy pills because they were too expensive for them. A week later, their cat died from this virus. We were very afraid that the same thing would happen with Leo. After 84 days of treatment, Leo started to walk straight and eat normally. All in all, I want to say that everything in this universe, even plants and animals, has the right to live. Everybody has to take care of their pets as well as their own health. Because each animal also wants to live and enjoy life, Whether he is an animal or a human being, he is a living soul with a beating heart in his body. Hence, we all must take care of not only our pets but also homeless animals, which are disappearing day by day.
In South Africa, a life unfolds, A teenage girl's story, brave and bold. Born humbly, a family's delight, But COVID arrived, casting shadows of fright. Her parents, hardworking, life's toil they knew, Till pandemic's cruel grasp, their jobs it slew. Her father stood strong, the sole breadwinner, As her mother's dreams, it sought to hinder. In grade 7, a new school she found, But the pandemic struck, turning life around. Financial woes and food scarce to see, Yet kindness prevailed, easing the plea. Online classes took a heavy toll, A top student once, she lost her control. Anxiety and depression took flight, In the darkest hours, she fought with her might. In-person school, a balm to the soul, Her classmates' embrace helped make her whole. Though grades slipped, she passed the year, Yet the weight of her struggles, still severe. The years that followed, a whirlwind of emotions, With COVID's grip on fragile devotions. Curriculum cuts and academic despair, Challenged her strength, seemed too much to bear. Friendships, a refuge, yet tested they'd be, As she grappled with pain internally. In robotics and coding, she sought release, Yet pressures mounted, never at peace. Good marks achieved, but joy far from sight, Inadequacy's burden, a constant fight. Her journey continued, as she turned sixteen, Financial struggles and friendships unforeseen. Through it all, her dogs, a source of light, Family and true friends, with all their might. Each day she faced with determination anew, Confronting life's challenges, strong and true. The COVID-19 storm, a test of her will, Taught her lessons profound, resilience instilled. Acknowledging struggles, embracing her truth, With coding and passion, she'll reach for her youth. Though scars may remain, she looks to the day, When the world heals, and darkness gives way. A 16-year-old girl, brave and sincere, With hope for a future both bright and clear.
As a teenage girl living in South Africa, my life has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Born into a humble background, I reside with my parents, younger sister, and brother, with my father being the sole breadwinner after my mom lost her job due to the pandemic. The challenges brought on by the outbreak have affected me academically, emotionally, and mentally, forcing me to adapt to new circumstances and develop resilience amidst unprecedented difficulties. 2020: A Year of Turmoil In 2020, I was in grade 7, trying to find my footing in a new school. Just as I began to settle in, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, turning my world upside down. The loss of my parents' jobs compounded our financial struggles, leading to anxiety and uncertainty about our future. The school's kindness in providing grocery packages helped alleviate our immediate food concerns, but the mental toll was immense. The transition to online classes added to my distress. As a top student at my previous school, my slipping grades left me feeling like a failure. The pressure to live up to the expectations placed on me by my scholarship and my own high standards overwhelmed me, leading to bouts of depression and self-hate. When in-person schooling resumed, I found solace in the company of my classmates, and the support provided by the school helped me pass the year, albeit not with the results I had hoped for. 2021-2022: A Blur of Emotions The following years were marked by a rollercoaster of emotions. The lifting of COVID-19 protocols allowed for more social interactions, but I struggled with anxiety in large gatherings. Balancing my studies, personal life, and the challenges of the pandemic took a toll on my mental health. The disruptions caused by the pandemic led to curriculum cuts, affecting my learning and grades. Facing personal struggles, I withdrew and resorted to unhealthy coping mechanisms. While I found comfort in my group of friends, I was hesitant to open up about my problems, wanting to be the strong support system for them. I joined robotics and coding to find a healthy outlet, but the pressure to excel in these areas added to my stress. Despite achieving relatively good marks, I continued to feel unsatisfied and burdened by self-doubt, leading to a constant feeling of inadequacy. The pressure from school, home, my scholarship, and myself weighed heavily on my shoulders, often making me feel like a failure. 2023: The Journey Continues As I turned 16, life remained challenging, with financial struggles continuing to impact my family. Problems within my friend group added to the emotional strain, causing divides and reshaping our dynamics. Despite coming to terms with my grades, I still grappled with occasional disappointments in myself. Throughout this tumultuous journey, my dogs have become a source of comfort and strength. They, along with my family and true friends, keep me going and give me the will to face each day with renewed determination. Conclusion: A Path Forward The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected my life, presenting numerous challenges and obstacles. As a 16-year-old girl from a humble background, I have been through emotional turmoil, academic pressure, and financial struggles. Despite the hardships, I have persevered, adapting to new circumstances and finding solace in my passions and loved ones. As the journey continues, I strive to embrace my imperfections and learn from my experiences. I acknowledge that my struggles, though personal, are valid, and I should not downplay my emotions. My resilience and determination will continue to guide me towards a brighter future, pursuing my interests in coding and robotics, and supporting my family through our difficulties. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has left lasting scars, it has also taught me valuable lessons about strength, compassion, and the power of resilience. As a 16-year-old girl in South Africa, I look forward to the day when our world heals from the pandemic's wounds, and together, we emerge stronger than ever before.
COVID was, let's face it, a pretty horrific time. It still is - the flaws of society that period brought out, never really slid back under the surface. But, and I assure you this is true, good things did manage to happen. My feel good story of the day is this: How I Found Myself Again Through Wild Swimming. Let's set the scene - It's 2021, I am horrifically burnt out from overworking myself with every project imaginable, and my mental health is holding on by a thread. In summary, ain't doing too great. And then, a good friend of mine and my mothers invited us swimming (this was before it was banned). I took swimming lessons as a child but there is a pretty big difference between a nice heated pool with little risk of drowning and, I don't know, the ocean! It was terrifying and I learnt quickly that I am not a great swimmer. But we were a year into a global pandemic, I was loosing my mind and I thought 'screw it, if I drown, I drown.' Always look on the bright side of life kind of stuff. Good news is, I didn't drown - barely even sunk! I tired myself out pretty quick and did a terrible little doggy paddle back to shore and then watched the other swimmers going about their mornings. It was wonderful, quite frankly. Wonderful enough to bring me back the next day. And then we kept on going. I bought myself a tow float and started swimming with it (scratch that, started clinging on to it for dear life and paddling myself a long with my legs.) My mother bought us each a dry robe for Solstice to help with warming ourselves up after the swim - I got her an amazing recycle swim bag as she would always come with an overflowing bag that would get drenched. As the months went on, I started to feel human again. "It's like I can feel the edges of my body," is how I described it to my Mother. I no longer felt like I was floating through life or so heavy I'd sink through the floor. It was as if the winter water, around 5°C for a good few swims, froze my body back into being. It was glorious. I found it easier to go on walks again, easier to notice when I was hungry, pick up on my emotions, tell when I had worked too much. I'm not a fan of functioning labels but I was finally functioning again! And yes, I got chilblains and my hands froze up so much that I couldn't get myself dressed. And of course, I still had bad days, weeks and months. And yes, when swimming was banned, I did lose myself again. But finding myself that time made it so much easier to find myself every time since. It's been almost 2 years now since I felt truly low and I like to think it was all because of that first swim. Of course, the development of fibromyalgia has almost totally wiped out the possibility of wild swimming and going on nice walks, but I am grateful for the opportunity to have done this during COVID. In a time where everything was so chaotic and scary, I managed to find some semblance of peace.
"An unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates My mother would always wake me up and say, "Come to pancakes." I was somehow a sleepaholic, and it was very difficult to leave my bed, to be honest. However, the fragrant smell of strawberry pancakes led me towards our small kitchen. My mom started laughing at me; she knew how to wake me up. I had never missed my morning classes because of my mom. Everything changed after COVID-19 was found in Uzbekistan. The pandemic of COVID-19 was officially announced in our country as well. My mom is one of the experienced nurses, and she went to the block areas of treatment for some unknown period of time. The first time, I had not been woken up by mom. I was too scared of losing my mom forever. Every day, I went to sleep and closed my eyes with only one dream: "Please, mom, wake me up." After some time, I raised the question of why I didn't do anything to help my community while my mom was combating this illness. I thought if we helped each other, it would be easier to fight against COVID-19. I texted all my classmates, and we made a solid decision to help our community. I organized a volunteer group called "Help for the Needy." Mostly, we delivered necessary products and medicine to elderly people in our neighborhood. Initially, there were 13 participants in our group, but a week later, another 18 people joined us to play their part in our community. I was not supposed to say I had done something big, although it was really helpful to combat this illness. It is worthy to say that our neighborhood is one of the first places to be considered free of COVID.Two months later, my mom came back home. She continued to wake me up like old times. Although I was mature and started to wake up by reminiscing. Honestly, COVID was a very challenging period for each of us; however, it taught me to be a part of society and truly wake me up to my own understanding. Moreover, I recognized the true values of each of my family members, friends, and relatives. This difficulty made me more sensible and mature. Life is an invaluable gift for all of us. Thanks for the challenges that forced me to value my mom. But I'm still loving my mom's voice: "Come to pancakes."
Sophie was a young woman who lived in a small town surrounded by rolling hills and sprawling fields. She was passionate about traveling and exploring new cultures, but her plans were put on hold due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The lockdowns and travel restrictions left Sophie feeling frustrated and restless, as she watched her once-bustling hometown turn into a ghost town. One day, Sophie was walking down the street when she saw an elderly woman struggling with her groceries. Sophie offered to help, and the woman gratefully accepted. As they walked back to the woman's house, they struck up a conversation and Sophie learned that the woman was living alone, with no family or friends to help her. Mrs. Jackson was a widowed senior who had lived in the town for many years. She had outlived her children and her friends, and the COVID-19 pandemic had made it even more difficult for her to connect with others. Sophie was deeply moved by Mrs. Jackson's story, and she related to her own feelings of isolation and loneliness. Sophie had always felt like an outsider in her hometown, as she dreamed of traveling and exploring the world. She saw in Mrs. Jackson a reflection of her own struggles, and she was determined to make a difference in her life. Sophie began to visit Mrs. Jackson every week, bringing her groceries and spending time with her. They talked about their lives, their hopes and fears, and they formed a deep and meaningful bond. Mrs. Jackson became a source of inspiration and comfort for Sophie. She showed Sophie that even in the face of adversity and isolation, it is possible to find joy and fulfillment in the small moments of life. Mrs. Jackson was grateful for Sophie's company, and she encouraged her to continue to explore her creativity and find new ways to bring happiness into the world. As Sophie continued to visit Mrs. Jackson, she learned more about her background and her life experiences. Mrs. Jackson had been married to a soldier who died in combat, and she had raised her children on her own. Despite her hardships, she had always remained hopeful and resilient, and she had found joy in simple pleasures like gardening, reading, and spending time with friends. Sophie was inspired by Mrs. Jackson's strength and resilience, and she realized that she too had the power to overcome her own struggles. Mrs. Jackson's story showed her that life is a journey, filled with twists and turns, and that it is up to each of us to make the most of the journey, no matter what challenges we may face. In the end, Sophie realized that her relationship with Mrs. Jackson was one of the most meaningful experiences of her life. She was grateful for the chance to make a difference in the life of another person, and she was inspired by Mrs. Jackson's resilience and hope in the face of adversity. And although she still dreams of traveling the world, Sophie knows that there is beauty and wonder to be found in her own hometown, and she is grateful for the chance to live a life filled with love, laughter, and hope.
It was a chilly morning in late August. “Today is the day,” I thought, as I parked my bicycle in its usual spot. There wasn't a sound to be heard in the area, other than the occasional chirp of a bird, awake for the hunt. As the sun rose above the horizon, numerous shadows cast across the cement apron of the Rockcliffe airport. Planes. The aircraft, each different in complexion, lined the sides of the ramp, yearning for the skies. I couldn't help feeling a surge of excitement, envisioning what lay ahead. The adventure was just beginning. I made my way around the side of the tiny, wooden building with my flight bag in hand. The light morning breeze ruffled my hair. I grimaced. “Looks like it'll be a windy day,” I thought to myself, knowing the wind was bound to pick up. I made my way up the creaky steps and into the flight club where my instructor would inspect my final flight plan. I took a seat on the old vinyl couch in the pilot's lounge. The next hour was spent reviewing my flight plan and ensuring everything was in order. After a grueling wait, my instructor walked in. Greg, a seasoned pilot and senior flight instructor, would sign me out for my first cross-country flight. I greeted him and sheepishly handed over my planning sheets. I watched with anticipation as he looked over the documents, nodding approval after every step. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he said, “Alright, let's get you a plane and you're good to go”. We walked down the hallway to the dispatch station where I was assigned a Cessna 172, fresh out of inspection. After grabbing my equipment, I hurriedly exited the building in the direction of my aircraft to perform the walk around; an essential step to ensure the security of an aircraft. The inspection went smoothly, as expected, and I was ready to go. With my survival kit loaded and my navigation charts ready, I performed my final startup checks. With a twist of a key, the old Lycoming engine roared to life. I taxied to the end of the runway. My Cessna was ready to fly and so was I. Full power. The engine roared like a lion as we barrelled down the runway. I could feel every bump in the pavement and every instability in the air. 55 knots. As I'd practiced many times before, I pulled back on the yoke. We were airborne. The aircraft climbed through the mid-morning sky as it drew further away from the world below. After communicating my departure route with local traffic, I switched to terminal frequency and continued my climb. I reached 8000 feet and the controller cleared me on course to Kingston. I banked the aircraft to the left, set my heading and started my timer. The journey had begun. I couldn't help but gaze out my window at the glimmering water of the Frontenac lakes beneath me. Suddenly, I realized I was flying alone with the grandeur of the Canadian wilderness stretching for miles in every direction. Most would feel terror. I felt alive. I had never been more confident in my abilities. An overwhelming feeling of happiness overtook me as I realized I'd found my second home – My calling. After an hour, the endless forest gave way to a large lake on the horizon. Lake Ontario. I could see the city of Kingston along the shore of the lake. I started my descent. As I inched lower, I could see the shadow cast by the aircraft glistening on the lake's surface. I was one with the machine. Its behavior was intertwined with mine. Suddenly, a violent gust of wind struck the airplane and it veered abruptly to the left. I corrected quickly, my heart pounding in my chest. The wind had increased significantly. I knew it would be a challenge to get the plane on the ground. The flight service operator gave me a runway to land. I started my approach over Lake Ontario. The glistening turquoise water below looked peaceful, unaware of the buffeting winds aloft. I turned onto the base leg and started my approach into the airport. Sweat pearled down my face as I maneuvered the old aircraft onto final approach. Full flaps. The runway was dead ahead. The airport was getting closer every second. A nasty crosswind forced me to tilt the wings into the wind to maintain my course. Five hundred feet. We would be touching down within thirty seconds. I continued my approach into the inner-city airport with determination. Fifty feet. I could see the runway numbers just ahead. “It's now or never,” I thought. Moments before the wheels touched the ground, I pulled back gently on the yoke and put the aircraft into a flare. The maneuver was one I'd practiced. It allowed me to bleed off the extra speed. I felt the plane descend until the squeak of the tires assured me that the aircraft was on the ground. I applied the brakes and exited onto the nearest taxiway. “What a flight,” I thought to myself. I closed my eyes. Pandemic. Shutdown. Lockdown. Mask Up. Isolate yourself. But I persisted. A dream come true. A licensed pilot at last.
Benjamin Disraeli, a British politician once said, “There is no education like adversity”. I used to believe that education was something you only studied in a classroom. However, after the COVID-19 pandemic started, my entire perspective on education was significantly altered. There are two different forms of education: knowledgeable education and moral education. Knowledgeable education is primarily acquired from schooling, but moral education is mostly acquired from society around us. After I had already begun my first few months of middle school (Grade Six), it was announced that subject to the pandemic, in-person teaching would end, and students would complete the rest of their coursework online. It was difficult for me to adjust to virtual learning given that I was still fairly young. However, this was not ideal since these first few months of middle school would lay the groundwork for the academic abilities I'd need for the rest of my life. My school's faculty provided me with the emotional and educational assistance I needed to adapt, which was a tremendous help in this area. Although, despite the encouragement and support I was getting from many of my peers, I just didn't want to attend an online school. As a result, I stopped attending online classes and started going for daily walks alternatively, skipping the entirety of my classes. My daily schedule was being completely consumed by my walks. I used to take five-hour long walks. I sincerely don't know how I managed to do that. I was still completing all of my homework, but I was using Google to complete all of my homework, rather than my textbooks, so I wasn't truly understanding the subject. My mental health was undoubtedly getting better, thanks to my daily walks, but my academics weren't doing as well. After completing Grade Six, I kept in the habit of being active, spending the majority of the day on very long walks, and once grade seven began, I was completely absorbed in learning — true learning, rather than just googling everything. Even though I was fully immersed in my education, I was still exercising by taking lengthy walks, but usually after school. Additionally, another similar experience happened. After my two-week winter break, we had a two-week period of online study after spending the first half of the year learning in-person. I detested taking classes online since I was used to going to school in person and seeing all of my friends. But while I was confined to my home and isolated from the outside world, I had a realization that transformed my perspective. I made the decision to do exceptionally well in school, over that two-week period. After we returned to in-person learning, I started working exceptionally hard and started to maintain an open mindset in order to get the grades I really wanted. Obviously, I couldn't get the grades I so desperately desired as my Grade Eight year was halfway through, but I still graduated with honors. Making a solid habit is obviously crucial for success and should be commended. I obviously didn't acquire moral lessons from my virtual education directly, but because of the virtual education, I had to make a change, which ultimately benefited me greatly. Now that I am in my first year of high school, I am excelling with not only fantastic grades, but also a great mindset. But to repeat Benjamin Disraeli's important quote, "there is no education like adversity", I began high school with the same goal of going for very high marks while having a great mindset that I previously expressed, and it has most definitely paid off.
Cans of blueberry preserves, boutique, small-batch handmade bon-bons, organic wildflower honey with comb and Icelandic yogurt --- what do all these items have in common? I found all these items and more in the trash. It's no secret that I love trash. No, I don't mean the smelly, stinky and meant-to-be-actually-dumped kind of trash. The trash that comes from the pursuit of perfect capitalism (which, as it turns out, is anything but). My love of everything dumpster started a month before COVID19 did, just in time too. What's a better way to spend time than rescuing food, outside; a totally harmless and productive activity during a worldwide pandemic? The word "rescue" doesn't really sum up the breadth of what I would find and donate to one of many "community fridges" in my neighborhood. Still, it gives you an idea: I plunge my (usually) gloved hands into the womb of a typical black polyethylene 10 gallon bag, sometimes immaculately and serendipitously free of actual trash and full of boxes, cans or containers of various types of bougie foods, other times, not-so-immaculate. Here's an exhaustive list of items I can remember finding: -Jacques Torres 40-piece bonbon boxes -free-range, organic eggs by the dozen, in bulk boxes of around 10 cases per box -Siggi's, Chobani, Skyr, Fage yogurts (all types and flavors) -egg white omelets, ready-to-eat -all kinds of canned food (including organic beans, coconut milk, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie filling, even dog food) -olive, coconut, macadamia, canola, sunflower oils -multivitamins, elderberry supplements, manuka honey cough syrup -vegan cheeses, tofu, tempeh, beyond meat, hot dogs, yogurt, tofurky (I remember this specifically since I eat all these as a vegan!) -pantry items: cases of all purpose King Arthur flour, Bob's Red Mill flours (teff, coconut, rice, risotto, oatmeal), crackers, snacks, chips, baking mixes, yeast) -prepared foods like pizzas, breads, sandwiches, wraps, Mediterranean meals (grape leaves, falafel, tabbouleh etc) The list goes on, but I won't since I think you kind of get an idea already. Everyone always asks me why I started dumpstering (sic) and I can pinpoint it to one moment: my craving for overpriced (read: bougie) French bread. I had to have it, I didn't want to pay for it. That's when I remembered: as a high schooler working at a bagel shop, I used to have to dump out all the end-of-the-day bagels and pizzas into the trash. Back then, I would cringe whenever I had to do this and actually enlisted my mother to come by for the bagels and pizzas to give out to our friends and family. When that became too much, I would sell them for $1 each in band class. I turned a pretty good profit, too: students are always hungry, which was great for business! So, I applied the same reasoning to the French bread. They must dump their breads out at the end of the day, right? Lo and behold, I visited their dumpster and found a bevy of boulangerie by the bag: baguettes, pastries, cookies, even cake, which I sadly couldn't eat as a vegan, but which I posted to my local Buy Nothing group to the delight of ecstatic carb lovers in my group! After that, I became galvanized to rescue not just bread, but anything and everything edible I could salvage. The waste was not only depressing, it angered me since the media was broadcasting about how there were food and supply shortages, specifically on flour, sanitizer and toilet paper. I was able to find all three in the trash on separate occasions (especially flour, which I found bags and bags of several times). When I was younger, my mother espoused the virtue of never wasting food, no matter the amount. The fact that companies were indiscriminately disposing of perfectly edible and overpriced (funnily enough, the more expensive something was, the more likely it was to be dumped since it was less likely to be purchased, gotta love capitalism) food spurred me to spring into action, on an obsessive-level of passion. After a while, I began to crave assistance and felt that there must be others who would have the same objective as I did. I created an encrypted chat group, which grew to over 50 members. Only a few people show sometimes, but it's still a salve to know I am not alone. Many times, while diving, unhoused or needy persons would come up to me and I always offered them anything I had found and directed them to the nearest community fridge. Time for a round of statistics: in the USA, a whopping 30-40% of the food readily produced is wasted. This doesn't account for food that hasn't yet entered the supply stream (think culled produce and animals deemed unfit for consumption due to appearance or perceived quality), rather, it's food that was already collected, packaged and manufactured. That's about $161 billion dollars of food waste in monetary value (from the year 2010). I hope I've made a dent in that number. I will keep dumpstering, long past COVID19, as long as I can.
The Cathedral Post Office, Uptown, Manhattan. I was walking along with others on the 2nd floor. Each of us was carrying one or more large boxes. We are all mail processing clerks. Our duty was shorting, scanning, and preparing mail for distribution. Job started at 3am, but I always came at 12am. Because my home was too far away. The outbreak of the pandemic has just calmed. Many offices and companies were still closed, and people were facing an extreme financial crisis. My husband recently got a job, but the salary was low. Before this job, he got an unemployment allowance. I didn't, because I was a student. I earned money by working at a study job before COVID 19, but that opportunity has closed. All colleges are online now. It was hard to continue education with only my husband's income, so I joined the postal job. I worked at night and attended online classes during the day. “Are you okay?” Someone asked to see me standing. “I couldn't walk,” I said in a scared voice. “What's wrong?” “I had a terrible car accident last week. Everything was fine, but today I'm feeling a lot of pain in my knees." She helped me to sit down on a chair. After two hours my older son (28 years old) took me home. My doctor told me, “It happened because you didn't get enough rest." After the car accident, I should have taken a rest for a month, but I continued my job because it would become permanent after three months. Eventually, I lost my job and we had to move out of our apartment due to financial difficulties. Then my husband became sick and needed surgery. Despite all this, I didn't give up on my studies, but I was always worried about how I would continue them. After that, I managed to get through three more semesters through various struggles. I'm just on the verge of graduation now. But my misfortunes haven't left me. New critical problems have arisen in my life. I got an urgent call from my doctor before the Fall-2022 semester. She told me that I have heart blockages and that she has scheduled for an angioplasty at Mount Sinai Hospital on August 25. I was extremely disappointed to hear that. My classes will start on August 25. If I die or become sicker from this treatment, my dream of earning my degree will not come true. I only have one more semester left to graduate. So, I didn't want to go through with the procedure. My doctor told me, "Your life is more important than your studies." I couldn't tell my doctor how important studying is to me. When I was nine months old, I lost my mother. My stepmother stopped my studies in the middle, and it took me more than two decades to struggle. In 2015, I moved to the United States and started my studies through the GED program. It wasn't easy for me because I had been out of studies for a long time and English was not my first language. On the first day of class, my teacher asked me some questions and I couldn't understand or answer anything. My eyes filled with tears, and I told myself that I wouldn't come back to class the next day. But I did. Within a week, my doctor called me again. She gave me some medical tests a few days before. After receiving the reports, she immediately deemed my angioplasty as urgent. She said that I could have a stroke at any moment. When the doctor confirmed that I would be able to go back to my classes within two or three days, I agreed to the procedure. After the angioplasty, I had various health problems. In addition to the blocked arteries, the doctor found blood clots. It was a little complicated. When I got my senses, I saw the nurse holding a part of my right arm tightly because the bleeding was not stopping. I left the hospital holding my right hand tightly because I had class the next day. But I was so sick that I couldn't go to class the next day. After three days, I started attending classes regularly and doing class assignments along with household chores. At that time, I had to take so many medicines that I always fell asleep and forgot everything. I felt a lot of pain in my right hand. I often forgot to take medicine on time and became sick quickly. My whole body was filled with big blue and black spots that looked like injury marks. But I was happy when I received my final grades. I got four "A" in four subjects (two were A-)." I am thankful to my kind professors for considering my hard work. My bad luck still hasn't spared me. Right after the fall 2022 semester, my husband twice contracted COVID-19. He was extremely sick and quit his job. I have faced so many difficulties since starting my studies that I am now afraid "will I be able to finish my last semester of graduation!" But I feel that someone is constantly helping me from behind. He brought me back from death's door five times and protected me many times from the conspiracies of my stepmother and dishonest people. So, I believe that he will help me fulfill my dream this time too!
Stillness in Motion Where are you, my serenity? A heart engulfed with ice, I'm lost in the oblivion of time, everything is frozen, I can't breathe. Months went by with everyone stuck inside, some witnessed new beginnings and many witnessed sad endings. Winter came in a blink of an eye, even the birds couldn't say their last goodbyes. No matter how wide the world is, I had no destination just like everybody else. Everyday was a repeating episode of the previous day. I was in a loop of time, with nothing else to do. Just get me out of here I cried in agony, but no one listened to me except me. If you get out, don't come back, that's what I replied. Covid made me greedy Covid made me selfish Covide made me desperate What can I do? Everything is monotonous. Wake up, wash, eat, watch, eat, sleep Routine made my depression flare up. Covid made me anxious Covid made me scared Covid made me uncertain When is this going to end? A question I kept asking, hoping someone might give me an answer, but all replies were filled with silence. All these thoughts made me question my sanity. I locked myself in my room from morning till evening until I couldn't tell time. I kept the windows shut, the lights off and even befriended the monsters under my bed. My intrusive thoughts ate me alive, and all that remained was an empty shell. Everything was still, yet everything was in motion, at the same time. It confused me? How could the world move on while I'm stuck? Can't it just give me a second to catch up? I can't comprehend. I was fading away, until someone took my hand and forced me outside. I felt the rays of the sun touch my skin, I felt the fresh air fill up my lungs. Why was I hiding? What was I hiding from? Till this day I can't seem to be able to answer these questions. When you're losing yourself hold on to the people closest to you, and when they reach their hand, grab on tightly and never let go. There's light at the end of the tunnel although I haven't reached it yet, I saw a glimpse of it in the form of my Yuki. They told me I needed to fill my hollow heart with love, but I had forgotten how to love until I got my Yuki. It made me wonder, how could I learn how to love from such a small creature? until I realized it just happens naturally with time. How much time? I don't know, but what I learned was, I was loved by someone who didn't ask for anything in return. Love unconditionally that's what I learned.
It's terrible that so many people are dying from Covid. I hear records being broken so often for the highest daily Covid death toll. Literally, tens of thousands of people are dying every single day. I hardly ever go outdoors, but at least today I happened to briefly glance out a window and see a flower blooming. https://photos.app.goo.gl/GRASsmS8wf1Q9hEYA Not this flower, I'm just taking this opportunity to show the ugliest flower I've ever seen so that you appreciate other plants more. My own backyard managed to be disconcerting because I was just so used to the same old furniture and computer screen that represent my stagnant and colorless life indoors. This blossoming flower was as if a random child had called my name out of nowhere. Once I focused, my first thought was: this flower is kind of ugly—though not as ugly as the one in the above shot. It was just your average flower-that-is-also-definitely-a-weed, you know what I mean. I just searched up “what do you call a weed flower?” A mistake. Hopefully, this was obvious, but I didn't mean a flower that is weed, I meant a flower that is a weed: an infestation that clogs up your yard and magically sprouts from concrete. . . . don't do weed. Moving on, the pandemic has made me bitter, and the minimal social contact has caused my emotions to become bottled up. How dare some plant grow and live when literally tens of thousands of people are dying every day? Then, I realize: at least this albeit weird, random, and little flower gets to grow and live when people are dying every day. At least, life will continue, even if humans die out. Plenty of weird, random, and little things, like my younger brother and other pests, are just too stubborn to ever give up. They'll live on no matter where we've gone. Where there are flowers, there is hope, even if, correction, even when they're ugly (because there will always be ugly ones). Yes, where there is nature, even when it's ugly and actually turns out to be weeds, there is hope. I don't know if I missed nature the most in terms of feelings. In fact, I haven't given it a single thought until today, but it's like I'm meeting it all over again, and it's, well, amazing. https://photos.app.goo.gl/Sq592iVk2SKWk48J7 And any nature you see is bound to be prettier than the spiky dandelion copycat growing out of my family's green onions. I thought maybe I'd write something nice about flowers and hope but was extremely let down to find no other flowers in the backyard for inspiration. As a last resort, I turned to the stuff growing on top of the green onions, which I think look too weird to even be classified as weeds. They actually seem kind of exotic or maybe my brain is getting fuzzy because I need sleep. I spent a whole second looking for my glasses before I realized that I was wearing them. In the end, the green onion stalks are edible, and that's what really matters. In the afternoon, I went outside to ponder the plant some more. I took a step out of the door, and the first things I noticed were the sun and its warmth, the sky and how blue it is, the plants and how they seem to glow with green life, and then the little bugs and how they crawl around. It was a perfect sunny day (despite the bugs). The distant noise made it seem like I was a part of the world again. Without a mask covering my nose and mouth, even the air I breathed seemed fresher and sweeter. I felt free. I felt alive. The previous paragraph was all in my head. When I went out, it was completely dark already, which is probably why I couldn't find proper flowers. I did notice that the moon, stars, and night sky were beautiful. This was probably because of the contrast between the dark, black sky and the bright, white moon and stars. There were also the vague shapes that seemed to be both in the stars as constellations and in the moon as shadowy figures. There was the silence. However, I only registered the colors and shapes in my unconscious mind. Consciously, I just noticed that the night was beautiful and spent a few seconds marveling at it. Then, I noticed the silence. Next, I was too busy running around with a phone as a makeshift flashlight trying to find flowers, so I didn't notice anything abstract. Finally, I got too cold and didn't want to get bitten by mosquitoes, so I made do with the green onions and went back into my cozy home. It hadn't seemed that cozy and welcoming for a long time because it had slowly faded into the background, as is easy for literal background to do. I guess it can be better to think of home as a safe place and destination so that you're happy to be there instead of indifferent because it's just the background. A lot of stories probably end with this sentence, so here it is: I was glad to be home. Side note: Part of this story is sarcastic. I only wish to make hope more meaningful by showing that anyone, even if they're feeling angry or cynical, can find that hope.
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