There I was in the South Gym with the smell of dirty tumbling mats on a Thursday. It was seventh period, 10 mins before the bell was about to ring, “Good evening Lions, I am here to inform you about our school closing for a while.” This was just the begging of months filled with disappointment, heartaches, and questioning hope. I never knew how much my life would change in a short period of time due to Covid-19. It’s like my life flashed before my eyes: I didn’t get high school graduation, I didn’t get to have my senior prom, and most of all I didn’t get my freshman college experience. I wasn’t the type of person to care about all these things, but my senior year was different. I went from almost dropping out of high school to be an all B student who loves school. I’ve built amazing bonds with my teachers, counselor, admin, and they became my second family. I never got the chance to thank them and say my goodbyes. No closure for this chapter ending in my life. Little did I know COVID-19 would impact me in many ways that I did not expect.
A few days before school got canceled, I remember sitting in my blue cold chair in math class. It was a cold dreary day; the clouds were spreading across the sky hiding the sun. In every class, the teachers would continue telling us students things such as, “If we return back to school,” or even, “School might not open back up.” During math class, thoughts in my head were racing through everything my chemistry teacher had told me in first period. My teacher was assembling homework packets and preparing classwork in case classes were to go online. While my thoughts were racing sixty miles per hour, I found myself listening to everyone’s conversation around me. My classmates talked about other schools nearby closing down, how it was so great senior year ending early, and about thousands of lives were being taken away within a few days or even weeks. The bell finally rang, and my math teacher came in and says, “Good morning boys and girls I hope your day is going well!” Our bell ringer was analyzing a graph on how many people got covid-19 and the deaths due to covid-19. My heart ached thinking about it. One of my classmates’ fathers worked with someone with covid-19, which I heard him talking about over the murmur of all my classmates talking. Right after he had said that he started coughing and sneezing which worried the whole class.
All throughout the day that was the conversation topic in every single class. Even in my preschool class, I remember teaching science that day and teaching them about germs as well as the importance of washing your hands. As I was teaching all the kids how to wash their hands properly, in the back of my mind I was thinking do they even know what is going on? Do they even know what Covid-19 is? Before class started, I remember taking a moment in the tiny bathroom we had in the preschool with a stool blocking the door, so no one comes in due to the lock not working for safety purpose’s, just trying to calm myself down, collect my thoughts, and try to put a happy face on for the kids. That was the last time I ever saw the four kids. There was no hugs or high fives when I left because my body filled with paranoia.
During this pandemic, I found myself constantly nervous and stressed about the unknown about the future. Waking up every day hoping all this would be over because it was hurting me mentally and physically thinking about what the future will bring. Will Covid-19 close all campuses? Butterflies would fill my stomach when I would receive an email from NIU wondering if school would get canceled. Being a first-generation student going to college through a pandemic made it even more stressful because I was like a lost duckling looking for guidance constantly. My family would constantly tell me, “Take one day at a time okay?” I never knew what each day will bring between fake news to protesting, even if my dad was going to make it through his heart surgery. On top of all this stress, I got told my dad needed to have a triple bypass and I wouldn’t be able to see him for two weeks. I dropped to the floor sobbing my eyes out from all the stress my body had consumed. My thoughts were racing. “Will he be there to walk me down the aisle one day? Will he get to see his daughter graduate college? “I constantly was worrying because hospitals were the hotspots to attracting COVID-19. I just wanted my dad to be okay and to feel better. Every single night I stayed up praying that his surgery will be successful, that he will be healthy again, and that this pandemic would be over. A few weeks later we found out his results. Overall, my dad’s surgery turned out to be successful. But, shortly after his surgery, my father’s job let him go. With my dad’s surgery now losing his job. Stress and anxiety hit me like a deer in the headlights on a country road. Later that night, I was hanging out with my boyfriend spilling my heart out to him telling him everything from my dad’s health to high school being canceled. He told me, “Think positive you need to be strong for him right now, everything will be okay.” As he hugged me tightly as if he could squeeze the anxiety out of me. It was so soothing just to have someone to cry and talk to through all this.
We find ourselves constantly comparing our high school experience to our siblings- to movies that can hinder us at the end. Over, the summer where senior’s work all summer and focus on college during the school year. Right? Well, this was my plan but then Covid-19 came in like a wrecking ball out of nowhere. I was not able to work for three months which made me even more anxious. I kept thinking about everything. A few days later my boyfriend invites me over to his house to stay the night. He surprises me with a fire at night with hot dogs over the fire. The sound of the fire popping and crackling just calmed all my nerves. Smelling that bonfire smell filling the air. It was lovely. I remember seating on a green lawn chair next to my boyfriend, Sage, that night looking at how bright the stars were as the fire was crackling. We stayed outside for hours talking about how school is ending and graduation. This night was the first time since Covid hit that I felt calm. That night I slept on the opposite couch across from my boyfriend in the living room. Which was the first night in a long time I got actual sleep.
My feelings now. I hate Covid-19 with a passion, it has changed so much from my high school graduation to college. I am sad that I never got the chance to say goodbye to my teachers, thank you to staff, counselors, teachers, and get to clean everything out of our lockers. COVID-19 may have caused me many heartbreaks but the one thing I still had was hope. Past these very long months of quarantine, I learned many lessons. I learned to keep thinking positive, focus on what I can control, and never give up when things get tough. With that being said yes covid-19 has shaped our memories of high school to college memories. But “This Too Shall Pass.” Overall, COVID-19 had impacted me in negative and positive ways. Which I will never forget but I will keep pushing forward.
I haven't gotten out much lately, but we spent a day in Elgin yesterday, and these are photos of signs on the YWCA.
Stories always start boring and predictable, much like my desire to graduate my degree and go on to graduate school. Despite knowing what I like to learn about, I'm still indecisive about my future. I like brains. I find them fascinating! My own brain though creates its own story through PTSD, anxiety, depression, and ADD.
Here are my doodles from before the COVID-19 interruption, and July 2020. I argue with myself on and off about whether or not to change up some things, but just like recalling a memory - each time you remember it, it changes with your thoughts of now.
This time turned me into a frightening disaster. I thought I knew what struggling with issues was. That thought proved me wrong. I've had plenty of panic attacks before this started. I took an acting class in hopes of bettering myself. It turns out life has more planned than we ever do. Covid-19 sent me into a panic attack at first nearly every day. After a tele-appointment with my doctor and a medication change, I found out internal panic attacks existed. Living felt like a struggle because I had no control over anything it had seemed. During this pandemic, I had hoped bleaching my hair would make it fall out, then I could control something. It didn't work (thankfully), but I wanted to be able to have some semblance of me and my choices. I thought shopping was an answer. Turns out even food shopping isn't necessarily meaning you have control. It's a baby step, but this too will have its pitfalls in that spending money is another issue. There was always some issue with what I would do. Trying to strike a balance for myself wasn't easy, and the more I tried, the harder I felt like I was fighting myself. During this time I'm grateful for my counselor and her patience with me. I honestly don't know what I'd be doing without her support and guidance during this time of fear.
Life is still messy, but lately control has been slowly taken back. Learning is continuous, not fixed.
Welcome to our new lives. Where we get up every morning, or afternoon, and continue with our new routine. As college students, our day to day activity has become something we never thought would happen. The stay at home order has brought us to place of chaos online, but has also become a moment of peace in our daily activities. Between the panic of places closing down and being laid off of work, the peaceful state of merely being alive and processing what to do next can be found in all of us.
Being alone is challenging and letting go of any plans you had for the future is difficult, but have hope. Remember that you are not alone in this and that students all around the world are also figuring out how they will go about their future.
We were a group of film students that collaborated on this together for a class project while under quarantine. Video submission pending.
I walked to campus to see the purple tree in front of Still Hall and realized there was a void. There were no cars, no student, nobody just me and geese. That led to the Facebook post in which I captured a screenshot.
This is my marimba transcription of Chet Atkins and Pat Bergeson's "Mountains of Illinois," as recorded by the inimitable Tommy Emmanuel, CGP. Emmanuel's recordings have long been on my short list of musical inspirations, and his live performances are full of joy. I have my mom to thank for this. The day she showed me Tommy's first solo recording, "Only," I was instantly enthralled.
The Mountains of Illinois is a special tune for me. I've been living in Illinois since 2004 when I began teaching at the Northern Illinois University School of Music. As the current Director of Percussion Studies, a program that began in the mid 1960's and whose Directors have included:
G. Allan O'Connor
I see my role as that of a caretaker of a program of excellence that spans over sixty years. Each of these men who came before me were mountains in their own right, and it is my job to make this program as good as it can be and to pass on in eventually to the next director who will have her own vision of percussion artistry. I'm also have the humbling honor of teaching alongside the deeply soulful Ben Wahlund.
This performance, then, is dedicated to Ben, to Rich, to Robert, and to the memory of G. Allan O'Connor and Clifford Alexis, two of the more formidable peaks of the NIU Percussion mountain range.
This spring when we went to remote learning, I immediately began hearing from alumni of our program. In speaking and emailing with them, I was being asked for advice, encouragement, and resources. I was also receiving messages that offered assistance to our current students and offers to share their experiences with our current students poured in.
I quickly realized that we all need each other to get through this experience, and this project developed from there. After a few weeks of planning, I hosted several Zoom sessions during April that put current students together with groups of elementary, middle and high school music educators of all backgrounds and disciplines (band/choir/orchestra/general music/AP Music Theory/guitar class/etc!). My music ed faculty colleagues joined us each week and it became a great learning experience for all involved. The connections we all made - albeit online - will hopefully be something positive that is remembered about this time. I created a slide show to document the experience and to provide a resource for our students and alums to access some of the applications and materials that were referenced in the Zoom meetings. I am very proud of the NIU family in the School of Music and am happy to share this project as an example of something positive that was created during this time of uncertainty and doubt.
Quarantine has been a struggle for me and my mental health, but taking walks is something that has been very beneficial for me. This photo series is based on the walks that I have taken around my small town, and the interesting things that I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed before.