At the beginning of quarantine three weeks ago, I spent some time writing letters to some of the seniors from my school, and today I received the sweetest letter back from one of them in the mail. My only encounter with this person at school was an occasional smile in the hallway, but I specifically remember complimenting them on an accomplishment on the second to last day of in-person school this year. All this to say, I did not know this person well at all, but what they shared with me struck me to the core.
She wrote about two pages worth of advice reflecting on her time at SJA so I could try and better mine. Reading through her experiences, and moments she found to be most important I couldn’t help but shed a tear. I simply couldn’t believe how someone I barely knew would take the time to share with me what they think is vital to having the best high school experience possible.
In reading this letter though, I realized how many of the little things about school I took for granted. Having the opportunity to go to daily Mass, seeing my friends in the halls, going to GRACE and Draw Near, eating the fries, goofing around before soccer, and just spending time with some of the people who know me best are things I can’t have right now. Sure it’s been really hard to accept the moment, but unlike the person who wrote me the letter, I still have time left at SJA.
I spent some time today just reflecting on my freshman and sophomore (well almost all of it) years because I know I surely didn’t make the most of it. In fact, I spent a lot of my freshman year alone at my house. I went to a few activities or games because I never really enjoyed those types of events, and I think I left them all early. (yes, I did leave the pink out game early freshman year before Christian made the amazing save. and yes, I regret it everyday.) I guess I never liked them because being social like that wasn’t “my thing” and I was too afraid to be all alone or left with no one to talk too. But since then, I realized that I love to spend quality time with good friends. So along with that, I decided to get more involved in clubs and activities with people I enjoyed being around, and boy was it fruitful. I grew in so many friendships and made new ones. Had I not broke down my wall of worry for the future, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to grow with these people.
As everything with COVID-19 was really starting to spread, I was really enjoying my time at SJA. The best soccer season ever (no joke) had almost begun, my friends and I were finding time to hammock together, and I had so many things that I was looking forward to for the end of this year like everyone else. It took me a week or so to calm myself down, and try to face this new reality. But since then it’s been really up and down. I have been able to spend time with my family that I didn’t get to see much during the week, which is so good. Getting to know them better and doing fun things has been a blessing, but all of this has made me realize how much I rely on my friends and school community.
With those things not being the same, it’s been made very clear to me that all the “little” moments truly do add up. There will never again be a time where I will get to walk to halls with the same 1,000 people I did every day. Each person with a unique story, some known to me and others I had only been told about. I wish I would have made more of an effort to get to know those in my community better. We spent every day together and I treated it like there would be many more moments to come. Little did we know that March 13th would be the last day to be as one. All the lasts I thought we would have as a community washed away in a day. I look back now wishing I had made the most of it.
I think all of us wish we would have done something a little different with our time if we had known that we would be facing a pandemic. Maybe we would have chosen to live into every moment and seek the things worthy of our time. Maybe we would have reached out to the person in our lunch period who sits all alone or gone adoration during Thunderblock with our friends. Whatever it may have been can become a new reality for each of us.
The biggest thing I have come to realize through this time is that each moment is too precious to waste. And as cliche and dumb as it sounds, from this moment on, I want to be one who lives in the present. I want to be more intentional with my life, especially when I go back to school. Looking at it now, I see that all those mornings waking up early to drive 45 minutes to SJA was a big blessing. At that moment, I was too stressed and caught up in the world to realize the good. SJA helped me find the friends I can call upon to pray with me in the hard times and to have jam-out driving sessions. It’s a place where I feel like I belong and matter all because of the people in it. Everyone makes me feel so loved and important, and all the staff members genuinely care for you and your faith life. Those things and countless others have really helped me to realize how appreciative I am to have such a wonderful place to call home.
Fortunately, I have two more years left here. Many of my friends’ time at SJA was cut short, and I know they would give anything to be back in a space where they have grown to be the people they are now. That being said, I want my next two years to reflect the “what ifs” we are all thinking about now. I want these next two years to reflect a journey we all wish we could have walked together. Even though everyone at SJA this school year will never be all together again, we can all live our lives to the fullest. Let’s all take this step to live in the moment and bring SJA into our daily lives.