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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Since the World Shut Down and I Learned to Deal With It

Orchestra teacher Laura Coomer delivered Sam a box of cookies on what would have been their final concert after nine years of orchestra. 

By Sam Bowden
Wyoming High School Class of 2020

Actually, I think this is only a few degrees removed from missing our Courage Retreat in seventh grade. Or a thirteen-hour bus ride home from Chicago a year later so awful the administration swore never to drive a bus full of students when it was below sixty degrees out again. Or the school flooding last year. Or the hurricane in first grade where my walk to Elm was blocked by a fallen free and electric wires that from a distance looked like dead snakes. Or…

You see what I’m getting at? This pandemic is by no means the first thing myself and my classmates have been through—maybe tolerated is a better word—but it is, without a doubt, the absolute last. So I have tried to find some consolation in that, and maybe something to treasure when inevitably looking back; never in our lives again will we share a crisis so intimately with this exact group of people. This is it. The final inside joke. The last entry in the Class of 2020’s lexicon.

Of course, the only reason I was able to come to that conclusion at all was because I had to find a way to approach this whole thing without being terribly distressed and/or furious. Once it began to sink in that what I was living through was not a giddy excuse for an extended spring break and actually something of global, literally historical proportions (read: once I finished all the Lord of the Rings movies and The Matrix trilogy and Breaking Bad and Tiger King, or roughly five days), I was worried. Legitimately worried that everything that was supposed to make senior year what it is was going to be stripped away, another victim of the virus.

I have always thought of myself as a cynical person, but if you’re living in a community like Wyoming and your reality is never that tough it’s easy to adopt a stance like that - if I was truly suffering in my home or my Mom was out of work, inversely, I’d probably be an optimist. So when prom was rescheduled I claimed I had seen it coming. And when I found out the high school’s doors would be closed another four weeks I wasn’t surprised. When each of my summer plans—a trip to New York, a spot in a writers’ workshop at the University of Iowa—fell away like dominos, I licked my wounds and said this was always going to happen, ever since the first case showed in Seattle. 

Follow artandwriting on Instagram to hear Sam reading a portion of his award-winning story for the Scholastic Awards social media site. 

That’s just what I told people. In reality I was and still am deeply upset that I no longer get to be a senior in high school. Instead I am a child of corona, a quaran-teen, man, and my senior year has been swept away just like the Olympics or March Madness or a small armada of gravely ill B-list celebrities. In context of the rest of the world I shouldn’t be angry, because I still have access to food and water and medicine and everyone in my family is both employed and breathing without medical assistance. I still feel robbed.

So. To cope, as they say. I didn’t think it was possible to watch everything on Netflix, but it turns out it is, so instead I’ve had to create a routine for myself. I still go to bed at ten and wake up at seven Monday through Friday. I read until eight-thirty, write until eleven at the latest, do my remote work and, God forbid, Zoom calls. This schedule, as much as I hate it on some rainier mornings, has become ironclad, and it’s helped me take things on a day-to-day basis much better and not think about the bigger picture, which can sometimes seem terrifying and enveloping, utter in its scale. Here’s a haphazard list of the things I’ve done since the world shut down and I learned to deal with it:

I check the news more than I care to admit. I’ve started cooking with whatever random ingredients unlucky enough to be in my field of immediate vision when I open the kitchen cabinet, resulting in Hershey’s Oreo sandwiches, peanut butter waffles, and scrambled-egg-turkey wraps. I’ve gotten really good at washing my hands. I read a whole book holding it upside-down. I thought about ordering something online, but decided against it, for Amazon’s sakes—they’re overworked enough, aren’t they? My dog is out of control because his humans are home every single freakin’ day and I am certain that he doesn’t actually have to go for this many walks when we aren’t home. I have cleaned my room. Three times. My grandparents are doing okay and I call them every few days to make sure of that.

Maybe by the time this goes to print all this would have blown over and this will read as overdramatic and unnecessary. Maybe I would have actually attended graduation and taken last photos with people I may never see again, my friends in their white suits and dresses like ghosts on the verge of dissolution, like people that have already become just memories to me. Maybe that weird younger brother of prom will have happened and maybe it would’ve been fun in the saddest way like a normal senior prom is supposed to be. But I am hardly a member of a normal class; why should I expect a normal finale, a normal sendoff? 

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