One Day at a Time

As our senior year approached the end, many of us looked forward to making final memories at prom and graduation. We knew this would be THE year to celebrate all of our hard work. Leaving for spring break, we fully expected to finish school back on campus. However, like a tidal wave, we saw the extension of spring break turn into shelter-in-place orders, and with it went any hope for the rest of the year.

I was hit with a major reality check.

It was a shock to face the possibility that we would not be able to say a proper goodbye to our teachers and friends, many of whom I’ve known since elementary and middle school. As an International Baccalaureate Program candidate, it was disheartening for me and my peers to see our IB tests get canceled. We had been preparing for the past two years, and it was difficult not to see the fruits of that preparation in the ways we expected. While we sometimes joked about how great it would be if we didn’t have to take the test, I found myself surprisingly disappointed when news of the cancellations was released. My school’s National History Honor Society field trip was also cancelled – four months of planning and fundraising down the drain.

With graduation rescheduled for July, I am holding out hope that we can have an in-person ceremony to celebrate our accomplishments as the Class of 2020. At the same time, I’ve come to realize there are many things out of my control – especially things happening in the wider world. And while this can be a stressful or scary thought, it has helped me to focus on what I can control. Even in quarantine, there are ways we can take charge of our daily routine, spend time with friends and family, and take care of our communities. I may not always enjoy being stuck at home, but I do view this extra time as a gift to tackle new challenges and better myself.

In the initial weeks of the shelter-in-place orders, I learned how to build a website from scratch. It was so fulfilling to help my private instructor for French Horn and broaden my programming skills. I have also started doing online workout sessions with my mom! It’s a great way to escape the usual routine and do something I hadn’t had time for during the school year.

I’ve started reading for fun again. In Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent, Coyle writes, “After all, you aren’t built to be transformed in a single day. You are built to improve little by little, connection by connection, rep by rep … Seek the small improvement one day at a time.” Advice like this is especially empowering right now while we are forced to face life day by day.

Picking up new hobbies and revisiting old ones has helped me find fulfillment. It is rewarding to see things like my horn playing improve. With this extra time, I have the freedom to challenge myself with new music and play personal favorites. Recently, I learned the guitar solo from Queen’s Killer Queen on horn, and a clip of it was featured on NPR’s It’s Been a Minute broadcast.

While it is weird not seeing my friends, the feeling of separation is especially difficult every time a birthday comes up. With orders against large gatherings, the quarantine has pushed us to get creative. In place of traditional birthday parties, my friends plan surprise drive-by celebrations. It’s great to see them again even from a distance.

Something else that has helped bridge the distance is technology. My normal school routine was turned upside down like everyone else. While at first it was difficult to get used to meeting on Zoom, I soon looked forward to seeing my teachers and friends online. Adapting to the new situation together was fun and brought us together as a school community. And soon, I will be attending a virtual “banquet” with the Leander High School IB Senior Class to look back on the past four years together with a slideshow and senior awards. I cannot wait!

Technology has also brought me a taste of my upcoming freshman year at Northwestern University. Over the past three weeks, I have been able to join their horn studio classes online. Though normally reserved for enrolled students on campus, incoming freshmen were surprised with a special invite from our soon-to-be professor. This has been an insightful, amazing experience! Principal horn instrumentalists from the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestras have even joined the calls to answer questions.

These artists and role models not only serve as an inspiration to students like me, they are also beacons of hope for their communities. One of the most powerful things I’ve witnessed during this time of crisis is the generosity of artists. While live concerts have been canceled, many professional musicians are choosing to hold concerts and interviews online – whatever it takes to make music and reach people who need music now more than ever.

There have been ups and downs over the past several months, but this time really allowed me to reflect on the things in my life that I am thankful for. With my 13 years in Leander ISD ending soon and a new chapter in my life beginning, I want to make sure I remember to give back. It may be “one day at a time” right now, but you can accomplish a lot for yourself and other people in only one day.