The months, each a different flavor, a different emotion. The first few, a learning experience. A shift from walking into a classroom to sitting in front of a computer screen. The first days were giddy, an excuse to get up later than usual. Of course, I knew this virus was deadly. I knew it wasn’t safe, but somehow I could still smile. My mind was still full of impossible utopias and quick recoveries. Being oblivious was less painful than accepting the truth. Walking around with blindfolds and a mask, only pretending to know what was happening. When the cases began their treacherous trek upward and lives ceased, ignorance was no longer an option. Mornings dragged on monotonously, but as long as there were still people around, everything would be all right . . . right?

Skip ahead, boring months painted in blue and grey. Then a droplet of rain in the still waters. The singular droplet soon became an onslaught of water, the ripples spreading throughout the world. “Black Lives Matter,” letters written in bold, begging to be seen, acknowledged, heard. Finally the oppressed having had enough. In the presence of one hopeful sentence, sticks and stones were thrown. Tear gas. Rubber bullets. Screaming, sobbing. Watching the television, solemn face, I learned things. With the swipe of a cruel hand, the droplet evaporates into a nearly forgotten void.

July slowly crept up on me. Pins and needles would relentlessly follow me that month, and I was clueless to the events about to unfold. A loss, like the falling of a flower petal, a butterfly taking flight, the song of an unidentified bird. Confusion and pain piled up, slowly and unconsciously the walls were built. A new loss unfolding. The loss of friendship. I slowly learned that not everyone would love me, regardless how I made myself appear. I still tried too hard to be liked. Changing, deciding which personality trait to pick up—and which ones to leave behind. Silently losing myself in an invisible forest of prickly thorns. I quickly learned that I was a good actress. I allowed jokes to lose humor, and learned to keep quiet. So very quiet. The world seemed to lack sound. Where were the tunes that once upon a time gave me life? Searching, getting desperate, I could not find them. I racked my brain, looking for solutions to questions that hadn’t been asked. In the process of becoming someone else, I had lost the person that mattered the most. Me. Running without rhyme or rhythm, I convinced myself I was having fun. Slowly my mind turned off. Blinking lights powered down, traffic lights stopped working, all activity stopped. I was convinced there was nothing more to the world other than this bleakness, like an early morning fog. I learned another lesson. You can’t change the past.

I took all my lessons—few in my mind but overflowing in my arms—to September. I stalked through my endless forest, growing familiar with the feeling of thorns pricking my skin, until I heard a familiar noise. At first just static, for I had forgotten just how beautiful music was. I allowed the music to take me far away from my mind, allowed it to speak to me, tell me secrets, funny jokes, sad stories. Finally that loud silence was replaced by the sound of hope. My world was blank, until I finally realized what I had been missing. The clock silently strikes 3:00 a.m., and sleep does not yet take me. My thoughts come and go, stopping by occasionally to chat. The early hours, such beautiful underrated things, when the sun shares its opening scene with the world. I wake up for the sole purpose of seeing the beautiful display of colors. I allow it to repaint my bleached world, and help me remember. 2020 was an impossible year—one I certainly won’t forget, but will try to learn from.

This year, I learned to be in the moment and to ask for help. It wasn’t until the little things I had taken for granted left me that I began to cherish every moment. The loneliness I felt could not have been soothed if I had not reached out to my friends and family. I try to make the most of this pandemic because there is no telling what might happen next. Instead of trying to fix the little mistakes of the past, I have decided to let them go. From now on, I will enjoy my life, be me, and be in the moment.

Paulette Dela Cadena

Paulette Dela Cadena (she/her). Grade 6, Greene Street Friends School in Philadelphia, Pa.

1 thought on “Be

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.