Somers Senior: This Sucks. But There’s a Silver Lining…

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Somers High School senior Ariel Markowski.

By Ariel Markowski 

The Ceremony.

I hear my name—Ariel Markowitz? “Markowski,” I mutter. Yes, it was mispronounced as usual, but it will make for a funny story. I stand up slowly, because this is my big moment and I want to appreciate every second of it. I can’t walk quite normally in my heels, so I take my time passing through the rows of people looking up at me (though not too far up; I’m a bit short). One, two, three. I mount each step leading up to the stage. A tall man reaches out his hand, and there it is. Thirteen years of academic successes and failures, triumphs and challenges, all consolidated onto this one sheet of paper: my diploma. I look toward the audience, only to see my family, with eyes as wet as mine. I turn toward the other side to see my closest friends, who have gone through everything alongside me. And after a moment’s pause, I continue my stride across the stage, yet as I approach the stairs opposite those I climbed, everything…vanishes! My eyes are closed, so I open them. No. No, no, no! The off-white ceiling above me stares mockingly back. My memory switches back on. One million cases worldwide with nearly sixty thousand deaths… Somehow, my reality seems more dreamlike than my dreams themselves.

The Isolation.

Everybody has realized his/her own struggle. Most evidently, there are the lives lost, and the families from which they were taken. There are the individuals putting their own lives on the line in an attempt to salvage others’. In the background, though, behind all the shocking suffering and the dead people literally being stored in trucks because there are so many of them that there is no longer enough room in certain hospitals, and the sharing of ventilators to allow people to breath, there lies a different kind of suffering. While it is obviously not of the same severity, it is not nothing and should certainly be addressed, so I will address it. My name is Ariel and I am a high school senior. For the past seven years, I have looked forward to this very point in my life, but I expected it to arrive under, well, not these circumstances. I have fantasized about prom, and the beautiful dress I’d wear, and the mere possibility of being asked to it has filled me with excitement. I have dreamed about receiving my diploma and finally feeling proud of myself for all that I’ve accomplished. I have wondered whether the rumors were true, how the seniors would finally be civil to each other during the second semester. Today, now, I must come to terms with the fact that there probably won’t be a second semester, prom, or a graduation. That is heartbreaking! I will never experience my final season on the track team or say goodbye to my favorite teachers in person. I’m a teenager who can’t socialize! That shouldn’t exist; It is by no means natural. Although I have always joked about hating people and preferring the company of my cat, this is not the ideal version of that situation. Yes, some people do suck, and yes, my cat remains my favorite companion, but I have failed to, until now, appreciate the massive impact human interaction has upon our lives.

The Admissions Disaster.

How would you rather have your dreams crushed, surrounded by your best friends who know how to comfort you and get you through it, or behind your closed bedroom door? Well, on March 23, 2020, I had to find out for myself. I have always been unskilled in handling rejection, but in high school and in the years preceding it, there simply isn’t too much of it to face. While I have had to apply for courses and internships, no application process is quite so brutal as that of college. I have always been a nerd and put my best foot forward academically, and I thought that this was my reward—to be accepted into my dream school. I completed the application process in mid-November and summoned all the patience I could muster. Four months later was decision day. I waited and waited, refreshing my email throughout the time range provided. It came and went with no such email. I decided to open up the website and check it for myself. And just like that, I felt it, “it” being the worst rejection I had ever felt, and my entire world falling down around me. One, two, three rejections, consecutively. I was crushed, crestfallen! What have I done wrong? I thought back over all my scores and volunteerism; all my clubs and courses, trying to determine where the gap was and what made my application fall short. I collected myself just enough to read through the details of my rejections. I stopped short. I am planning on being a math major, so I thought to do some math. Number of applications received divided by size of class—what?! The acceptance rates had fallen to four, five, and six percent, an all time low for each school. Now, a bit over a week later, I realize that this was not my fault, but rather the fault of a system that encourages prospective students to apply to every. single. college. in which they express even the slightest bit of interest. None of my friends achieved the desired outcome. Zero. If you are in this situation, you are certainly not alone. Simply try to make the best of the options you have. Your hard work was not a waste, and while it might not seem like it, everything will eventually work itself out.

The Solution?

There is no way to recover all the lives that have been taken away. Significant damage has been done, and all we can do as a society is to take the measures necessary to minimize further suffering. If you are in a position similar to my own, it is essential to be creative. Recreate the events you will be missing with your families, or make plans with your friends when everything eventually settles down, which it will. Put your social losses in perspective. This is when it is okay to consider the true scale of this disaster. People are dying, families are grieving. And for this reason, do not be selfish. If you are healthy, do not go out and get sick only to infect others; likewise, if you have been exposed to the virus but have only expressed minor to no symptoms, do not go out and get others sick. No temporary enjoyment could be worth a life. Educate yourselves. It is just as important, though, not to waste this time. Do not make the mistakes which I admittedly have at the onset of my isolation: Do not go to sleep as the sun rises and wake up as it is ready to set. Do not sit in front of the television and wait for all this to end, because there is no telling when it will. Instead, do what makes you happy, in moderation. If you love to spend time with your friends, you can, so long as you take advantage of the many online platforms available such as Zoom. If you love art, then draw or color using the materials you have at home. You’d be surprised by the therapeutic effect this could have. Lastly, do not get a vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight is essential. Go for a run, or take a walk with your family. This is completely acceptable when social distancing is taken into account. Take a turn rather than coming too close to a neighbor. Stay active and healthy in every way you can control, thus improving your body’s immune system. When we look at this the right way, we have the opportunity to unite (not in person of course, but rather virtually) in a unique way. Many have decided to employ social media in an attempt to educate others on precautions and other strategies to avoid infection. After this crisis is over, we will all share a common bond, a unique connection. Social distancing does not mean that our society should break down. Instead it should, in a way, strengthen it. So try to adopt a positive outlook, to a healthy extent, and stay busy, happy, and most importantly, stay healthy.

Ariel Markowski, 17, is a senior at Somers High School. She is a member of the varsity track and cross country teams all three seasons and also of various clubs, such as the Social Action club, Sign Language club, Mock Trial and Student Council. She enjoys art, literature, and spending time with animals, especially her cat, Skylar.

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