For the past two months you have been inundated with COVID-19 information to wash your hands, cover your cough, social distance, and stay home when you are sick. All solid information during this COVID-19 pandemic and in our lives to prevent disease transmission even when the pandemic is over.

As a Public Health nurse with a mission to prevent, promote, and protect we cannot overstate this message enough. But what life lessons have we learned since this new virus emerged? I decided to seek the wisdom of seniors to capture a glimpse of how the real world with young fresh minds viewed this new (novel) COVID-19 virus. The questions were straightforward.

Question 1: Has the COVID virus impacted your life, and if yes how so? Question 2: When the COVID outbreak is behind us and we have a vaccine and/or treatment to combat it, what lessons will you take away from this period in your life?

These questions were posed to Wahpeton High School seniors who are about to graduate. This is an overview of their responses.

The students indicated an overwhelming sense of loss by missing out on their senior year experiences citing examples of not being able to go to school; attend their last prom; participate in spring sports, concerts, choirs, Senior Tea, plays; and to see friends. They shared fears of how the virus may impact their college plans this fall.

They acknowledged joy in extra time spent with family and becoming closer as a family unit. Their “impact statements” sent a clear message that this season of life has set them in motion on a different path. But the wisdom of life’s lessons they will take away from this period in their lives is the real story. Here are some of their transformational comments:

• I have learned the importance of building bonds with my family and other loved ones, as well as not taking any experience for granted. When we can finally find normalcy, I will take every opportunity and make it worth while.

• I think one of the lessons I will take from this is to take vaccines serious and always get vaccinated. We did not have a vaccine for this disease and now almost our whole nation is shut down. It is crazy how much vaccinations can help our whole nation.

• I will never take face to face interaction for granted ever again. Seeing people over the phone/laptop is just not the same.

• I have definitely learned to appreciate what I have when I have it. Tomorrow is not always guaranteed. I’m grateful for all that I have gotten to experience and most things that I overlooked in the past. When this is over I plan on seeing my friends and making the most of what we have left of our year before college.

• I believe struggles in our lives prepare us for bigger better things to come and I think this pandemic isn’t only getting us high school students prepared for the real world but also going to help us or already has helped us with some type of challenge or challenges to come in our lives.

• When this is all over, I think the biggest thing is I will stop complaining about the things I have to do, I will go with the attitude of that I get to do it not I have to do it. I wished this year away and I really regret it because I would do anything for things to go back to normal again. I have learned to never take anything for granted because you never know what life will throw at you.

• Things I will take away from this COVID quarantine experience would be that I can hopefully cook plenty of meals by myself, keeping a sleep schedule would have been smart, and being in class is/was better than online school. Also that life can change really quickly so you have to live in the moment and make the best of what you have at the time.

• I think this time has really taught me how to be dependent on myself for my schoolwork and is good preparation for my next few years at college.

• There is one lesson among many that I will for sure take away. That is, don’t wish your life away. Many people keep looking at the future and not living in the present. I have had so many plans canceled and I now know I need to focus on what is happening now and not always what will happen tomorrow.

• Something that I will take away from this period of time is the importance of family and patience. Family are always going to be one of your greatest supporters so it’s important that you support them as well! It is also important to have patience because stuff doesn’t always happen at the snap of a finger.

• When this is all over with I will have learned that not everything in life is a guarantee and to not take anything for granted. I know it sounds kind of basic but I never really understood it until now.

• I think one of the most important lessons a person can take from this is that life doesn’t always go the way you want so live in the moment and enjoy the little things. Don’t take anything for granted!

• First and foremost, I will never complain about being bored again because nothing can compare to this. Secondly, I think that the biggest lesson I’ve learned ties back to my first answer. I will appreciate small moments more and hug my friends more often.

• I will definitely say “no” a lot less! If someone asks me to go out and do something, if will be a definite yes. Being stuck in my house isolated from people and places I used to see or go to everyday is not easy. I will also take away that it is important to make sure to stay healthy and listen to “orders” when they are put into place! They are put into place for our safety.

So there you have it ... COVID-19 virus through the eyes of high school seniors. These are meaningful and from the heart responses. Thanks to the seniors for sharing this is what I have learned.

COVID-19 is here and we will learn to live with it. We can accept, give thanks that we have knowledgeable professionals working to combat it, and start working with what we know. We will get by, we will get through, and we will come out stronger. We have learned that life can change in an instant and we have learned how to adapt. We have learned that we need to be ready and resourceful. But most importantly we have learned that we are all resilient with a little help from our family, friends, teachers, and community. Just ask our seniors.

Giese, RN, is the Nursing Director at Richland County Public Health Dept.

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