Special Report: More Than Meets The Eye
You can see many of the physical impacts of COVID-19 like the coughing, the vomiting, the social distancing, and the masks.
But it’s what you can’t see that’s weighing heavily on students.
That was March 2020. At first, it felt like a little more free time.
“We get an extended spring break,” said Petoskey High School senior Ethan Rindfusz.
Ethan and Kyla soon realized everything they had always dreamed of for senior year would be different.
“You’re told from like kindergarten all these things are going to happen and then all the sudden…” Kyla said.
“I would say school is the big topic for my friend group right now, everyone is kind of stressed about school, and college, and applications, the future,” said Ethan. “It’s a lot harder to get my work done in my bedroom than a classroom.”
“It does not feel like a learning environment,” added Kyla.
Then once the school day is done…
“No extracurriculars, no school, no nothing, no human interaction, and that makes you go a little stir crazy, all you have is time to think about, and sit and think to yourself,” said Kyla. “I think with everything being cancelled the main thing is people are losing a sense of purpose.”
For Kyla it’s band and dance.
For Ethan that’s tennis.
“When those things are gone and it’s just you, people are wondering ‘so okay who am I, what do I do with my time, why am I here, what am I supposed to be doing,’ and that’s hard to not know who you are anymore,” explained Kyla. “That is such a hard thing to wrap your mind around and I think that, plus being alone so you have all the time in the world to think about that, is leading to a lot of hurt and pain.”
One feeling — impacting everyone at some point.
Petoskey High School counselor Tamara Kolodziej sees it in her office too.
“Very lonely, that was the hardest thing I have heard, that was a tough one,” said Tamara.
This year left some students with more questions than answers.
“All the unknown that brings so much stress and anxiety, and so that on top of everything else you’re supposed to be thinking about and worrying about is really hard,” said Kyla.
But they’ve also found plenty of positives buried in the negative.
First, realizing the major impact of a simple question.
“Everyone realized how much support everyone else needed, so it was awesome for people to say ‘hey, how are you doing,’” said Kyla.
Even strengthening friendships.
“Because you get to know someone so much more when you talk about struggles, and you talk about real life, and the deep things, and the things people don’t always want to talk about,” said Kyla.
While it’s impossible not to compare this year to others, different doesn’t have to mean bad.
“Because this year is still a year of our lives and we shouldn’t be wasting it just sitting here upset about it, because it’s an experience,” said Kyla.
An experience, molded by more than what meets the eye.
But more so what’s happening in students’ minds.
“It’s not easy to have a positive outlook on life, it really isn’t but I think doing the little things that make you feel better, and make your brain work and get out and exercise and stuff like that, even though it’s physical health, it can help your mental health in a way,” said Kyla.
“You’re sitting in front of a computer for six hours, you have to do somethings to unwind, not sitting on your computer any more than that,” said Tamara. “Turning your brain off for a little bit.”
“My advice for someone who’s feeling a bit overwhelmed right now would be take it one step at a time, set a small goal for yourself, achieve that goal and set a bit bigger goal and work your way up from there,” said Ethan.
This year tested students everywhere — not just in the classroom, but in life.
Learning that in life you may feel isolated, but you’re never alone.
“It’s never the end,” said Kyla
“We will get there, but this is not forever,” said Ethan.
To set up an appointment to talk to counselor at Petoskey High School, click here.