A Light at the End of the Tunnel

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If you’d told me when I was a senior how my own child’s senior year would go, I would have said you were nuts. At that age, my biggest concerns were where to go to college, what to wear in my senior pictures, and how I was going to make it to my 6 a.m. Saturday shift at Burger King when I had partied in a corn field til midnight the night before (okay, maybe a little later — sorry mom and dad). No one could have convinced me that 26 years later, my kids would have a heck of a lot more to worry about than I did.

We were all pretty shocked five months ago when we were told our students would be finishing spring semester at home, but I never anticipated that they wouldn’t go back this fall. Not going to school is hard for my younger two, but harder by far for my senior. He already missed his junior year of baseball last spring. Will there be one last season or is he officially finished? Will he ever get to shoot a basket again in his high school gym? Will he have a prom or will that be a bust like last year? Will there be a graduation ceremony? Will he learn all he needs to know to be prepared for college — and even then, will he be able to attend college classes in person? There are so many things that must be going through his head that my heart breaks for him, and I wish so much that I could change it. I know I’m not the only mom who feels that way, because as soon as the news was released that our kids would be learning from home, parents flooded Facebook with their concerns.

Some were upset and panicked that fall sports are postponed. Some researched private schools — and some chose to attend them. Some discussed moving to a different state, or at least to a different district that is still allowing kids to attend in-person classes. These were all valid reactions since we all want what’s best for our kids, but part of me couldn’t help but wonder if there is more fear coming from parents than from the students themselves.

Isaac schoolSee, back when our stay-at-home order first began, my oldest son had an assignment to write about the meaning of adversity. As a 17-year-old who didn’t have sports to watch on TV, couldn’t play baseball, and was no longer allowed to see his friends or his girlfriend (good luck keeping me away from my boyfriend for months at that age), he could have been pissed at the world. But instead, the things he wrote painted a pretty cool picture of how resilient he might be.

As humans, our lives are constantly riddled with challenges, personal problems and world issues. Many people view these issues with pure disgust, constantly aggravated with the negativity that seems to dominate their lives. However, adversity is actually extremely important in the growth and development of a person’s character. It has the ability to help people accept aspects of their personality that they hadn’t previously known about. And for many, it takes such time of hardship or defeat to realize much of who they truly are. 

He went on to explain how during other tough times like this in history, overcoming trying times proved to be an essential part of life.

The people of America were hit with the first world war out of nowhere, creating a fear that had previously been unknown. Directly following the war, the US was faced with the Spanish Flu, followed by one of the worst economic crashes in history. As if the Great Depression didn’t fully accomplish its goal of erasing the final crumbs of America’s hope, World War II came knocking on the door just a few years later. Obviously, Americans living during this time were all too familiar with the feeling of loss and defeat. However, because of this, it made the feeling of success feel even greater. ….after decades of living in despair, the freedom and happiness that had been missing for so long was stronger than ever before. Because of the adversity faced by this generation and the success that followed it, they will forever be driven to push through tough times and to find the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Up until now, my kids haven’t experienced many changes, or reasons to look for that light. They’ve gone to the same school district, grown up with the same friends, lived in the same town. But they have met some pretty amazing people who have gone through and overcame tough stuff. Military friends who were forced to travel to new schools every year and were forced to meet new people; kids who say they wouldn’t change those experiences for the world. Young athletes who’ve missed entire seasons because of injuries — who came back even stronger the following year. Kids whose parents have lost jobs or had their hours cut during this pandemic — who can’t afford the things they could before, but who have had time to develop a tighter family bond than ever.

gardenJust reflecting on how my own family overcame the uncertainty we had when this all began makes me feel a little more optimistic. Yes, we were stuck at home and didn’t go to restaurants or see friends, but we ended up enjoying our time together and honestly, I wouldn’t change it. We got out board games, played wiffle ball and actually used the ping pong table. We planted a garden. We grilled. We talked. We made karaoke videos (okay, some of us more than others). My boys learned to love golfing and fishing because they were the only two things that weren’t closed. All because of something that pushed us into an uncomfortable situation that we would never have chosen to be in. I can’t help but wonder if by being forced to adapt to a new normal — no matter how boring sitting in front of their screens may be — they’ll be able to celebrate the accomplishment of overcoming a really frustrating time when this is all over. It certainly won’t be easy, but neither has anything else been that resulted in a reason to celebrate.

No matter how perfectly you act, how hard you work, or how cautious you are, adversity
will find you. In fact, our planet is currently in the midst of global pandemic
that has already taken away many of the things I love most in this world. It sucks. At times like these, it’s very easy to lose hope and become mad at the world. Through these times, however, it’s important to remember that adversity truly is beneficial in the long run. It teaches people to hate losing, but to love winning even more. And it shows people how sweet it feels to finally reach the light at the end of the tunnel — and gives them the motivation to get there.

I’m not about to pretend that I don’t have concerns about my kids, especially my senior, not having a normal school year. But something tells me that without feeling my projected fear — without worrying about the same things I’m worrying about — they’re going to be okay. These days are flying by whether they’re in school or not, and although it’s not what I would have chosen, I know my kids won’t be here forever. If I keep dwelling on what could have been instead of breathing in the now, I’ll miss a lot of really great memories. So today, I’m choosing to accept the present, live in the moment, and maybe even learn a few things from some very resilient kids along the way.

One thought on “A Light at the End of the Tunnel

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  1. Elizabeth, another beautiful writing! I’ve enjoyed them all. Your 17-year old is an excellent writer also!

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