written by Keira Rose Dahm[dropcap letter=”I”] always anticipated that my 13th birthday would be a landmark occasion. I’d have a blowout party and my extended family and entire friend group would attend. I imagined a huge layer cake, covered with sparkling candles, that I’d blow out while wishing excitedly for the future. But in the end, my birthday wound up being a day where I felt like I was on house arrest. And even my sister didn’t want a piece of cake after I blew out the candles… germs, you know?
Quarantine has taught me many lessons, beyond being flexible about birthday party expectations for one. It’s also taught me that I should make my bed every morning. How, you ask? One day during house arrest (aka quarantine), I was looking for my shoes because I was planning on going on a rare outing to pick up sandwiches at Jersey Mike’s. My comforter was bunched up on the floor and I tripped. And I didn’t just trip and fall, no—I fell and all of my weight, like I was watching it in slow motion, landed on my elbow. I was in agonizing pain.
I knew instantly that I’d broken it.
A complicated visit to the doctor and a cast was retro-ffited for the elbow/arm. Wearing the cast was uncomfortable but the plus side was I didn’t have to deal with wearing it at school. The rest of the school year would be spent in the confines of my home.
I never thought I’d miss school, but these days I dream about having to deal with the drama and uncertainty of being there.
I guess what else I realized is that I used to take going to school for granted. Took for granted that I could just hang out with my friends…in person. Now I only have one close friend who sits with me in the backyard, in the searing heat, ten feet away so we don’t contaminate each other. It’s not the same.
I look forward to the normal awkward interactions of being with other teenagers outdoors more than I would have ever imagined; even if I get eaten by mosquitos and am covered with sweat by the end of every hang out. The alternative is I talk to my friends over Facetime and Scener.
I anticipated a summer of trips to the movie theater and the mall, but now that seems like a crazy fantasy. I’ve learned to deal with disappointment and take it in stride. For example, the whole time I’ve been in middle school I was looking forward to the day when I’d make it into The Imaginations, the elite choir at my school. We were supposed to attend multiple competitions, and have lots of performances that drew big crowds at places like Disneyland. But thanks to the coronavirus, the very act of singing is a risky one so it’s impossible to say if we’ll even be able to perform together as a group. It’s heartbreaking, but there are so many things that have gone to the wayside because of the pandemic.
The fact is: I’m growing numb to it all.
As for my thirteenth birthday, the magnificent celebration I envisioned fell short to say the least. The most eventful thing that happened was that I got Shake Shack takeout for dinner (something my parents rarely agree to). I’m coming to terms with the fact that quarantine is going to be a rough ride. More disappointment is on the way. And I know that I’m not going to have much of an eighth-grade year. Bonus is, at least I won’t have to do P.E.
Maybe that’s how we all need to approach this pandemic. Trying to find the silver linings where we can. I’m now a little older and already a lot wiser.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
I assigned this to my friend’s daughter. A savvy and very self-aware teenager who is just beginning her journey. Reading this account by a 13 year-old trying to wrap her head around what’s happening is a reminder for all of us parents out there. Be mindful. This whole thing is tough on us as grownups, but far too often we lose sight of how hard this is for our kids. Imagine the experiences they’re going to miss out on having. And sure, junior high for all intents and purposes sucks ass, but it’s a right of passage and one most 8th graders like Keira (and my own daughter) won’t get to endure.
Maybe they will be tougher on the other side. Maybe they will be more excited about the simplest of things like getting to meet their friends for a milkshake. Maybe we will get back to a bit of the innocence, but the one thing every parent can be damn sure of? They won’t be the same kids once this is over.
— Dawn Garcia