The Hard-won Wisdom I Have Earned

The class of 2027 gathered anxiously in the 5B homeroom. My classmates and I shifted restlessly, awaiting the school nurse’s visit. She was expected to tell us about the new coronavirus disease. Once she arrived, the grade settled down to listen.

The nurse told us all she knew about the virus, which really wasn’t very much because it was still very new. She tried to iron out the rumors, answer our questions, and reassure us that we were perfectly safe from harm; after all, most of the cases were in China, and we had nothing to worry about—right? We whispered to each other, going about our business and half-joking whenever somebody coughed or sneezed that they had the coronavirus. We laughed amongst ourselves, unafraid and naïve.

About three weeks later, we were kicked out of school early for spring break and never allowed to return. This was saddening and traumatizing, not to mention discomforting. Thus was the transition to distance learning, which was surprisingly easy despite the circumstances. But there was a lot going on at my home once school got out.

Amidst all of the confusing online schedules, my family was dealing with an emergency bathroom renovation! Plumbers and workers pounded and hammered around upstairs, which meant no access to our toilet, sink, or bathtub. This was indeed as tough as it sounds, especially since we had to mask up and keep our distance from one another, but our community supported us so much. One of my uncles came from Texas to help for a week; various friends and neighbors loaned us their bathrooms; and even my meeting, Stony Run, supported us. We were still shown love through the masks, gloves, and devices. God sent many wonderful people my family’s way during that time.

Over the summer I was looking forward to returning to school, which had promised reentry come fall, so I geared up accordingly. Friends and family from all over the country sent me comfortable, handmade masks, all of which I greatly appreciated (and still appreciate!). My mother looked into getting me protective shields and gloves and bought more pencils and notebooks. It was like the lightning before the thunder.

About three days before we were scheduled to return, we received the Email. The Email announced that I would indeed not be returning in a few days due to unprecedented developments. I must admit, I took this news very hard. I cried, lamented, and fumed. Eventually I got over it, but the Email changed everything: my mother decided that I would be online the whole school year to avoid more emotional stress and turbulence. This too I was very upset about, but I now realize that her decision was best.

I’ve gone through some pretty dark times since the beginning of this school year. I’ve felt isolated, hopeless, helpless, and broken. I’m a very social person, and I’ve felt the strain of not seeing, hugging, or talking to friends in the flesh. I’ve struggled with anxiety, but thankfully I have many empathetic teachers that have helped me through this.

Overall though, God has helped me most. I’m a devout Christian, and my faith has kept me strong. On the days I felt (or feel) like dying, I go to Him in prayer for strength, guidance, or support—often all three. He soothes me and often calms me down so that I can think positively. I’ve also attended Stony Run Meeting, and sitting in silence outdoors has a very calming effect. As I sit under the big oaks in the stillness, I contemplate life and my place in it and know that I have learned that God dwells within each of us.

Awaliyat Oyenuga

Awaliyat Oyenuga (she/her). Grade 6, Friends School of Baltimore; attender of Stony Run Meeting, both in Baltimore, Md.

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