The My True Story writing contest is part of WFPL’s Collective Memory Project to capture the experiences and perspectives of Watertown citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Library’s local history department is preserving printed reflections and oral history interviews for future researchers. The My True Story project focused on the perspectives of teens at this time. Library staff, and especially the Teen Librarians, feel it is important that the viewpoints of young people are reflected in the WFPL’s local history collection.
The My True Story project received 90 submissions from teens. Our judges, a panel of Library staff members, were amazed of the breadth and depth of the student’s thoughts and reactions. It was difficult to pick “winners.” Many were creative and heart-felt, but the following students presented the most outstanding works. (For the students’ privacy, we are not sharing full names in this post.)
High School Winner:
- E.C., 12th Grade, The Five Stages of a Lost Senior Year
Middle School Winner:
- T.C., 8th Grade, C’est La Vie (shared below, in full)
Middle School Runner Ups:
- J.T., 8th Grade, A Trip to the Store
- T.J., 8th Grade, Over Again
We want to thank all the teens that participated and the public school teachers that helped promote and support their students in the process. Thank you to our Middle School winner, T.C., for giving WFPL permission to share this moving essay in full!
C’est La Vie by T.C.
Have I ever thought about what it would be like not to be in school? Of course I have. Just like any other students. But let me just say, I did not think it would be this bad! I honestly thought it would be like being on vacation. One minute I’m in class and the next I’m in homeroom listening to my teacher telling us we might never come back to school for the rest of the year. With only 5 more minutes left, there I was so excited to finally be out of school. Little did I know I would be sitting in my house, every single day, not being able to see my friends, or do any after school activities. I didn’t realize how fun and adevnturous school was until I had to stop going. I didn’t know that my daily life and the world around me would be forever altered and everywhere people would be making huge social shifts.
The first few days of so-called quarantine or “corona time” as my 3 year old sister says were fine. We just relaxed at home, watched movies and had some bonding family time. After a few days I realized life was not going “back to normal” anytime soon. I saw my parents on the phone with other family members and watching or reading the news and I could hear the worry in their voices. My mom works as an Emergency Room nurse in Boston and she is generally always calm but I could see it affecting her. She was so cautious when she came in the house from work, immediately washing all her clothes, showering and changing before she came home. She would wash her hands for what seemed like literally forever before she would come near us. I would watch her scrub her hands under the running water until her hands were red. I know she was worried about bringing something home and getting me and my siblings sick. I always worried when she went to work because I knew she was constantly around the virus and I was seeing how serious this virus could be.
When we watched the news I would see the reports from Italy, Spain and New York City and I kept wondering if it would get that bad here. I tried my best to help my parents at home with my siblings, with cleaning, and keeping everyone’s spirits up. Everyone always told me that I’m always happy and smiling no matter what, and quarantining didn’t stop me from making other people smile too.
Things felt like they were changing so fast. I was thankful we had a backyard so I could at least go out and get some fresh air after being stuck inside the house for so long. My little sibling kept me distracted with all their energy. They are honestly the most energetic kids i’ve ever known in my entire life, I was thankful I had them around to keep me entertained. I began to adjust to the new normals of online school, not going anywhere and social distancing. I was missing my teachers, my friends and other family members. I was worried about my family in Haiti as I knew this virus was spreading and I knew that if it spread in Haiti, it could get very bad quickly. I knew that Haiti would likely not have the resources needed for this virus and that many people didn’t have the luxury or privilege to social distance. The more I thought about Haiti throughout the day, the more dreams I had at night about my friends and family there. I tried to not worry so much and as the weeks went on I became more adjusted to the new ways of life.
My family was figuring out new ways to try and stay connected with others. We’d go to my cousins house or my grandmothers and talk to them from outside with masks on. My cousin and I would talk outside as I stood on my porch and her on the street, how badly I just wanted to hug her some days. We also went on long family walks around Watertown to get out of the house when it was nice out. When I say “long family walks” I actually mean it because my dad would make everyone walk nonstop even though my legs were starting to get SO wobbly. That’s when I wished I was my siblings because they were in the stroller while I had to walk.
My mother would voice that she was frustrated with the national response by the government. She would talk about how scientists should be leading the way to move forward. She was very sad by how many lives would be lost and worried a lot about how this would affect the world as a whole particularly those who lived in poverty. She told me it was hard to find a lot of positives out of this situation in her opinion. She was also worried about small bussiness owners and explained that so many billionaires continued to get richer during this pandemic while everyday and working class people suffered. This all hurt me deeply as I worried for my family and friends here and in Haiti. I sometimes questioned how could life be so cruel.
I tried to focus on the positives I thought a lot about all the things that covid changed and I did see people caring more for each other, bringing each other meals, buying groceries, and looking after one another. I also learned of was the benefit to the environment that all our social distancing and staying at home were having on our earth. I strated to wonder if maybe more people would eventually learn that our everyday actions and choices do in fact have a big impact on the world around us and our communities as a one. Maybe we would start thinking more of others and not just ourselves.
My parents talked to me a lot about how social distancing was about doing what was best for the greater good. They talked about how our actions affect everyone. This reminded me a lot of Haitian culture and reminded me of my days in Haiti. In our culture we think a lot about our neighbors and community. We take care of each other even if we are strangers it is our duty to look out for each other. We always cook large pots of beans and rice and friends and family can show up unannounced anytime and eat or visit. Everything we do in our daily life we think about those around us. As a child I was taught to help those around me. I would be expected to carry large buckets of water for not only my use but for others to use for cooking and bathing. I remember balancing the large bucket of water on my head trying desperately to master the balance of not spilling one drop. I hoped that maybe this pandemic would make us really rethink what we want our future to look like. Our everyday world moves so fast and this pandemic has forced us all to slow down. As the author Arhundhati Roy states, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.” We need to realize that we share something, our humanity. We are all in this together!