The Part That Sucked
Yes, things could be better. After a year and a half of enduring all kinds of difficulties and setbacks as well as crushed dreams and expectations around your extracurricular activities, Some of which may have been genuine passions for you, it’s easy to chalk up all the negatives flowing from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It sucked, and some of the suck is going to linger for the foreseeable future, unfortunately. We older folks who never had to endure the mass cancellation of our sporting events, squinting into a computer screen for hours of Zoom classes, cloistering ourselves in our bedrooms for interminable hours because it was too much of a hassle to go outside the safety of our private domain, owe you guys a deep “I’m sorry” for all you’ve been through.
So, what could you have possibly gained by surviving the COVID global pandemic?
The Silver Lining
The answer to that varies, of course, yet overall enduring difficulties and adapting to the unknown and unfamiliar, all else being equal, makes you a stronger, more resilient person. Yup, the right hard stuff is good for you. That’s one of those facts that has become inconvenient to emphasize but I’m here to emphasize it. For you. Properly chosen challenges that make you grit your teeth with your own private mix of determination, patience, persistence, more gritting (both physically and mentally) are your undisclosed superpower. That’s how you build the person who can step into the world and accomplish stuff, important stuff. Hard stuff makes you better.
Now, there’s no question that some of that COVID-19 hard stuff was just pure frustration and highly unfortunate. Not being able to get immediate feedback from your teachers, or finding it much more difficult to ask questions, not to mention the gnawing temptation to surf something more interesting on another tab while the teacher droned on took its toll. But entering the dark swamp of virtual learning forced you to figure out how to listen differently, to look harder for clues when the content or assignment was ambiguous, to discover how much meaning depends upon context when asking a question via email message rather than in person.
That stuff wasn’t easy. That stuff required doing it wrong a number of times before getting it right. That stuff required you to demand more of yourself because the process was new and different and there wasn’t someone there to tell you how to solve the problem.
That makes you a stronger learner and a stronger person.
The Takeaway That Keeps Giving
Yes, it’s a hard road this business of figuring out how to solve a problem on your own. A year into the third decade of the 21st Century you’d think there would be an app for this. Just kidding.
Nevertheless, you rose to the occasion. COVID hit. Schools shut their doors. Classes moved online. You didn’t know how to handle it at first. You dropped the ball here and there and experienced bouts of panic. Yet you persisted, figured out how to follow through on questionable assignments, how to write much more pointed and specific emails to your teachers, ask questions whenever things were left too vague, and not insignificantly at all, you figured out how to find something interesting to do with all that down time, that potentially boring time, that it-would-be-easy-to-play-video-games time.
This is great news.
Avoid The Pity Monster — Pick Up That Heavy Load
You’ve heard stories about those long-ago ancestors of yours, how they had to walk 10 miles to school every day, uphill both ways. There’s some truth to that obvious exaggeration. At some primal genetic level we human beings are likely programmed to search for problems and to anticipate things falling apart. If life kept cruising along as if you were skipping through the rose garden, if the fridge always has food in it, if the outlets always has power to them, if the weekend always had activities scheduled, if the parent or teacher always had a solution to your problem, what’s left for you to do but enjoy the bliss filled days of childhood and adolescence? Cowabunga dude!
Well, not so cowabunga.
I’m here to suggest that the inner problem anticipator of yours doesn’t quite like that. Nope. When things are going too well. When lIfe becomes too predictable. When someone is helicoptering in too often and the road is too obstacle-free we create issues. We really do. As you embark on the upcoming school year and you find yourself drifting into that mindset, pitying yourself for a lack of this, that or the other thing it’s time to harness the pluck and resilience you learned over the past year and a half. It’s time to step up and offer to lift that heavy load, be it taking on new academic challenges, extra credit work, run another mile at the end of practice, take a cold shower, sign up for a college level class, ask that really attractive person (who makes your knees knock when they approach) to have lunch with you.
The past year may have had way too many cancelled activities and life threatening challenges, failures and disappointments for you but there’s a high probability that it also made you a lot stronger. Don’t ignore that. Keep exercising and applying those strengths. You’re going to be glad you did.