Don’t Panic

Stay centered, use what you know, continue to push forward, and don’t panic.

If I had to recount every time someone called the past year and a half “unprecedented,” I would probably lose my mind. In every lecture, class, and conference, someone has proclaimed how this once-in-a-lifetime event has changed the course of our lives. And there is some truth to that. After March 12th of last year, each of us became a different person. Maybe you picked up a new hobby, started talking to a new group of friends, or lost someone special. Whatever it may have been, your life definitely changed. 

While we tried to figure out how to put on a Players production this year, we encountered unanswerable questions in every meeting. There was simply no way we could play out the almost infinite possibilities. Can we have a live audience? Can we bring students in to work? I found those same questions being raised in many conversations with friends throughout the year. Are we going to have prom? Is graduation going to be online?  These questions were even a common topic of conversation at the dinner table with my family. When can we see Grandma and Grandpa again? Can we meet our baby cousin yet? As each of these conversations unfolded, I was overwhelmed by the countless possibilities that the future could hold.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, everything has been inconsistent and constantly changing. This is unlikely to stop, but it is somewhat calming to know that there is consistency in the inconsistency. Moving forward, everything will be different, and that is something we all need to prepare for and adapt to. From the constant anxieties this last year brought, I was able to derive useful skills for the future. After stressful meetings or tense conversations with friends, I forced myself to calm down and “wait out the storm” until we could act on our problems. I focused on what I could do in the moment, leaving considerations of the future for another time. Some may call it procrastination or ignorance but, for me, it is a powerful strategy to help me succeed.

Even though our situation is unique, the past four years have taught me that change is always inevitable. Whether you’re beginning high school, starting the college application process, or leaving for college, the lessons that our experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have taught us apply: stay centered, use what you know, continue to push forward; and in the timeless words of Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic.”