Jessica's Senior Year Comes to a Halt

Jessica’s Senior Year Comes to a Halt

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, and high school seniors, in particular. Allison talked to one student about her perspectives.

Hi Jessica, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. The COVID-19 pandemic has left us all in fear, especially for those who are elderly or have pre-existing conditions. Knowing that we fit this demographic adds an extra layer to this difficult time.  

I know you are a senior in high school and the class of 2020 really has an interesting story. You were born into the world during the time our country was attacked on 9/11, and you’ve experienced life in a “comeback mode” (financially, mentally and emotionally) which likely made you all stronger and more resilient watching the world rebuild.

I’d imagine you’ve worked your whole life to get to this point and you were looking forward to this special year. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about your feelings as many are trying to digest their emotions and figure out how to articulate, process and express them. 

How long have you been living with type 1 diabetes?

I have been living with type 1 diabetes for 10 1/2 years.

Did your diagnosis help shape you as a student? Did it make you more organized? Responsible?

As I was diagnosed at such a young age, 7 years old, I had to grow up faster than most kids. I learned how to be more responsible and independent at a young age which I believe has helped prepare me in unique ways for the future as I go off on my own. Living with and managing type one diabetes is a 24/7 job that constantly requires my attention and maintenance. Having to deal with all of this has greatly helped shape me as a student, as I have to be organized, responsible, and meticulous with my diabetes, just like with school work and deadlines. I’ve learned to take responsibility for my own actions and to stick up for myself.

When you heard the virus was picking up speed, what were your first thoughts? Fears? How did you prepare for staying at home

The first thoughts I had when I heard about the coronavirus were all about my diabetes and the higher risk I am at. I was constantly worried that I would be exposed at school or in other public outings. I feared how I could possibly manage the disease if I got it, and on top of that having to deal with my diabetes and the effect it would have on me. When the Stay at Home Order was passed, my family and I made sure we had all the necessary diabetes supplies, including insulin, blood glucose meters and strips, lancets, ketone meters, etc. We didn’t know how long we’d be stuck at home so we wanted to be prepared.

Many people have found their blood sugars all over the place amidst the crisis, what do you do to stay on top of your management during this challenging time? 

Not being able to go anywhere has really given me some extra time. With this time, I have now started to workout every day, which has greatly helped my blood sugar levels. Also, now that I have so much time, I can give more attention to my diabetes and be more consistent with looking at my Dexcom and correcting my highs, even the ones that are hardly above goal. I have found this to greatly help my A1c levels.

Photo credit: Jessica Oser

I know senior year comes with a lot of well-deserved celebrations. What are you most upset about? 

There are many things that I am upset about missing this year. For one, prom and graduation were both canceled. I did not get a junior prom, so this would have been the only prom I’d get to go to. Also, I was looking forward to graduation with my class and celebrating with friends and family after a lifetime’s worth of hard work. Also, I am upset that we had our last day of high school without knowing it. I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to friends and teachers.

At this time of year, seniors are typically celebrating their college decisions and looking forward to a stress-free rest of the year. How did this impact that carefree feeling that you’ve probably looked forward to for so long?

The coronavirus has lasted longer than what some people have thought, so now my college orientation has been switched to online. I was looking forward to meeting people and potentially making some friends before the semester started. I was also looking forward to walking around campus more and getting acclimated to the campus and how things work. Also, now that the rest of the school year is online, things have been getting confusing for how they will transfer over to colleges, which just causes more stress for students.

There is no doubt that the Class of 2020 has experienced a lot in their short lifetime. You were born into the world the year of 9/11/2001 and now we are facing a global pandemic. This has to help define each of your characters. How do you feel it has impacted you as a person and your perspective on life?

I believe that having to go through so much and surviving it every time has made us stronger and more perseverant. We continue to get back up and live life to the fullest both during the hard times and once the hard times are over. I believe it’s taught us to have a more positive attitude and outlook in life.

Photo credit: Jessica Oser

Has COVID-19 impacted any of your plans academically and/or career-wise?

Some colleges are switching to online for the first semester. This has not happened for my college yet, but we are still waiting. If it does, we will be robbed of the excitement of the start of our first year at college.

If you had one silver lining to come out of COVID-19 what would that be?

While times right now can seem very dark, I believe that there are a few tiny silver linings that can be found. For one, while it was horrible not being able to have a proper goodbye to friends and teachers, I also view it as better, because we didn’t have to go through the emotional pain of seeing everybody for the last time, as we didn’t know it was the last time. Also, we now have extra time to focus on our personal well-being and spend time with family. I believe that this virus will bring our generation closer together.

How do you personally deal with stress and grieving all the things that COVID-19 has taken from you this year? How do you recommend people express their emotions?

As I mentioned previously, I have started to workout every day. This has always helped me deal with my mental health and now that everybody has the time, I strongly recommend that they do the same. Also, whenever I find myself going through a chain of thoughts that could lead to anxiety, I distract myself right away or I switch around my thinking and try to live day by day instead of viewing everything all at once. Thinking about things one step at a time majorly helps and keeps you from getting overwhelmed. Lastly, expressing emotions through journaling can really help too. You can get everything out and off your chest and view it as forgotten and trapped in your journal.

Photo credit: Jessica Oser

In what major way do you feel this pandemic will change the course of lives of your generation unequivocally and across the board?

I think that living through this pandemic will make our generation stronger and more wise. We’re going to live through it and see that everything will be ok, even if it doesn’t seem like it now. So, in the future, if something horrible happens again, we will have had the experience of making it through the hard times and coming out even stronger. We’ll know that everything will be ok, and that knowledge and experience can help us in the future when other hard times occur, as we know we’ll make it through those times too.

If you had one message to say to your fellow classmates of 2020, what would you say?

This too shall pass. We all have to stay strong and know that this won’t last forever. There are more fun times ahead that we’ll get to go through together and they’ll be even sweeter. This will all be nothing but a memory soon.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me! I wish you and your family nothing but good health and happiness. And I know you will do great things with your future once this is behind us!

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Read more about A1c, COVID-19, Dexcom, insulin, Intensive management, teens with diabetes.

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