As I saw it, school was to be a series of (sometimes slippery) stepping stones into the entrance hall of adulthood. It seemed pretty straightforward to me; you would attend for 13 grueling years and graduating would mark the finish line, somehow bringing meaning to everything from petty playground drama to sleepless nights spent brainstorming ways to get out of PE.
I imagined myself, clad in cap and gown, ready to embark on new adventures and experiences, ready to leave behind memories of this juvenile bubble called high school. And so you can imagine how surprised my former self would have been if I told her that this coveted ‘graduation’ was spent on Zoom, where my cap, gown and heels were swapped for slept-in pyjamas, bedhead hair and slippers.
Initially, I selfishly adopted a very ‘why me?’ approach to not being able to graduate in traditional fashion and having to adapt to becoming a quaranteenager. I would receive messages from friends over April and May marveling at how ‘Today would have been the prom’ or ‘Today would have been our last day of school.’ But beyond ridiculous tears shed over missed prom photo ops and senior pranks that were never played, the situation also had a major silver lining that helped to put me and many others at ease: the cancellation of external exams. While some may have felt that all of their efforts and time spent in preparing for final exams had been for naught, I like to remind those people that the cancellation of exams eliminates exam anxiety, the sometimes paralyzing stress of exam day, and the potentially soul-crushing prospect of exam wipeout. It also provides us with the space and adequate time to reflect on our academic journeys over the past decade, as we move on to the next chapters of our lives.
Personally, I have found that the only way to endure the wrath of Covid-19 and avoid plunging into an abyss of Netflix binges and constant visits to the snack aisle is to take everything that’s happening in your stride. One could go as far as to say that I have become a jack of all trades, teaching myself new skills that I simply would not have had time to learn under ordinary circumstances. Last week, for instance, I attempted to channel my inner pâtissier by throwing on an apron and whipping up some chocolate eclairs (the word ‘attempted’ here is very important). Many misshapen – although tasty – pastries later (you can’t really go too far wrong with crème pât and chocolate glaze), I even found out that éclair means lightning in French, because it’s eaten in a flash.
The week preceding that, three bruised oranges and one angry mother later, I also fulfilled my lifelong dream of learning how to juggle. I have reorganized my enchanted forest of a closet countless times and my friends and I have learned more Tik Tok dances than we would like to admit. Some of my peers have chosen to pursue their interests via online courses, taking on everything from law to computer science to fashion design. Some have decided to dedicate these next few months towards catching up on much-needed sleep or religiously following exercise videos on YouTube.
Personally, I would say I am a hybrid of the two, leaning squarely toward sleep rather than exercise, sadly.
So no, our lives as quaranteens haven’t exactly been easy or completely enjoyable: we do especially miss friends, social interactions and the comfort of not having to scavenge for masks every time we leave our houses like everyone else. However, one thing we should remind ourselves whenever we are filled with nostalgia for a past sans mask and gloves, is that our current state is temporary, and like all things temporary, this too will pass.
Our health and the health of those around us remain the priority and should always be at the forefront of our minds during this time. I always remind myself that when things eventually go back to normal, friends, ambitions for the future and life in general will be waiting on the outside, ready to welcome me back with open arms.
Inci Fassa is a graduating high school student living in Abu Dhabi. She's also a 4500-hour certified yoga teacher and founding editor of her school’s first newspaper.