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Now What?

Updated: May 1

by BEN RICHARDSON - The numbness and surrealness of our Corona break thus far has left me with more questions than answers. I present you a string of incoherent thoughts and observations on this new normal.

WESTFIELD, Ind. (March 26, 2020) - The Waffle House Index issued a Code Red this morning. I think that’s an omen-- Even FEMA bows down to the restaurant’s declarations. Quite frankly, I trust both entities more than the president, who said in a live press conference on Tuesday that America would be back in business by Easter, but I’m not so convinced. Too many questions are overloading the minds of students for any of us to think straight right now though, so what do I know?

Let’s take a trip into those minds of unsettled high school students at the current time, especially Class of 2020. Friday the 13th was the last day seniors will have been at Westfield, and I full heartedly believe that’s one of those memories we’ll get to brag about for the rest of our lives. Parting without a senior prank is such sweet, sweet sorrow, let alone a prom. How are we going to hold graduation? I asked my nextdoor neighbor Mrs. Vondersaar, one of our fabulous counselors, and she warned not to downplay Stacy Mac’s proclivity to get creative....

For those of you whose entire seasons of sports and extracurriculars that required so much work leading up to a point that never came, don’t hold back from expressing your anguish. If anything, I want you to stop pretending you’re ok, because it doesn’t require much courage to put on a facade. Exposing your true feelings is scarier than bottling them up in fear that you’re a total buzzkill thirsting for pity. Just because you aren’t on a ventilator fighting for your life doesn’t mean you haven’t a right to grieve.

At least AP classes are online now, so hundreds of thousands of kids will literally just cheat their way to a four or a five, no matter how many threats the College Board throws their way about the ominous “measures to prevent cheating.” Our president may be ready for Easter, but the morals of high school students certainly aren’t. We’re going to need some big time forgiveness after this one.

For those of you whose loved ones belong to the medical field, their sacrifices are not going unnoticed. I need to send out a big fat thank you to the doctors and nurses and firefighters and policemen and first responders in our community on behalf of the entire Lantern staff and myself especially. Instead of pretending to care by retweeting the video of Gal Gadot and other celebrities relaxing in their mansions singing “Imagine” by the politically clueless, wife-abusing and child-deserting John Lennon, the best thing we can do is social distance for the time being. Like thank you, I’m sure struggling families are currently saying,

“Honey, look at all the rich people singing ‘Imagine.’ I know we both just lost our jobs, but everything will be alright now!” *high five*

No shade, but some of you on Instagram are asking to get punched when you and your friends spend the day together on a beach in Florida. When Stacy Mac encouraged us over intercom to go outside, she didn't mean go that outside.

Moving on, what our generation learned from this global pandemic is how to abruptly swallow the reality that busyness is dead and COVID-19 killed him. This virus has no respect for our borders, our schedules or our deadlines. We’re on COVID-19’s schedule now, and it’s more chaotic than a Wednesday two-hour delay during ISTEP. Not a single one of us can pull the “I’m literally so busy” card any longer. In some cases, Zoom conferences and Facetime have made some of us more present with others than ever before. But for others, for people like me, our true colors are laid bare in the sense that there are no more excuses for our antisocial communication tendencies. Nobody could possibly “accidentally” leave someone on read in a time where we’re on our phone 3-8 hours a day (based on a Richardson family survey I conducted).

I believe what I’m trying to say is that time away from everyone really makes you re-evaluate your friendships. Was that person really your friend or were you just in the same class at school? Now that COVID-19 has robbed us of school, are we getting a sneak peek of how many people break off contact with one another once they go to college?

If you need some friends, I do suggest you grow your own. They’ll teach you lessons along the way, too, I think. The night right after school ended, I planted three sweet peas in a pot, and each day when I go to my window to water them, their stalks always seem to move this way and that to adapt to get the most sun. I think humans have had to adapt in the same way recently. There’s no straight path to an end goal; there’s a lot of improvising and awkward bends to reach the sun. And the sun we wish to get to is different for everyone. Maybe you’re banking on prom to get rescheduled. Maybe you wish you could pick up your artwork stuck at school. Maybe you’re needing to snatch that final health credit in order to graduate. Whatever that sun may be, I’ve learned through waiting on my peas that getting to it ultimately takes time. But most important of all is the bold act of turning towards that sun. Plants don’t focus on the weeds and predators around them. Instead, they turn to face the light. They bathe in the rays as they work on their primary objective: growing. I’ve learned more from watching three peas than I have in my e-learning, and that’s not optimal but I’m learning to just accept it.

There’s no closure or happy ending to this story, folks. Class of 2020, I’m banking on a glorious virtual Roblox graduation, which quite honestly should have happened last year given the unforeseen weather. Until we see each other again, I do hope you do something that would make your community happy that you exist. We have plenty of time to kill. We also have plenty of seniors to kill by not social distancing. Choose wisely--God is watching. Virtually check in on your grandparents, get groceries for your elderly neighbors wearing gloves and masks, pick up trash. Paint a funny rock and put it somewhere. Chalk up deep thoughts on the sidewalk. Sneak out and give blood at the Versiti Blood Center in Carmel because there’s a severe shortage (Mom, if you see this, I’m sorry).

In the meantime, I’ll leave you to the rest of your “Coronacation.” Stay safe! Stay home!

-- Ben

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