Aden Bickler’s March started rough and has only gone downhill. The senior at Eden Prairie High School began the month with stressful auditions for several theater schools and a difficult breakup with his boyfriend, and now the rest of his senior year may be online due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Still, he’s keeping it in perspective.
“I fully acknowledge how lucky I am to be healthy right now, and I am not trying to come off as a whiny teenager who didn’t get his way,” Bickler wrote in an email to Eden Prairie News. “My heart goes out to the friends and families of those who have passed away from the disease as well as those who are currently infected.”
Daily life has been disrupted around the world as health officials urge social distancing and self-quarantine to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Bickler, 18; Sydney Lewis, 17; and Anna Frischmon, 17, were charging toward their final months in the halls of Eden Prairie High School when Gov. Tim Walz ordered all schools to temporarily close by March 18 so staff could begin planning for distance learning.
It’s derailed spring theater productions, sports, prom and even (potentially) graduation.
While the students understand the urgency in closing schools, it’s a bitter moment.
“I do think it is the right thing to do, but one can’t help but grieve for all the hopes and dreams I had for what my final year of high school would be like,” Bickler said. “I think back to all those times I wished school would be canceled so I could sleep in, and I’m beginning to understand cliches such as ‘be careful what you wish for’ or ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.’”
Frischmon agreed, “The fact that I might not be able to go to a normal day of high school has been one of the most heartbreaking things.”
Senior year comes with more independence and responsibilities, and having that torn away is difficult, Bickler said. Frischmon echoed his sentiment.
“Everything that I’ve been looking forward to in the last four years of my life has been taken away from me in less than a week,” she said.
The seriousness of the situation hit Lewis as she walked through the halls during a class period in the week of March 9. Through every classroom’s open door, she heard teachers talking about the pandemic and the possible switch to remote online learning. Later, her English teacher told his class he’d “never experienced something of this caliber before,” and it hit home, she said.
Frischmon hopes that when online school starts up − likely on April 7 − students will be able to interact virtually and not have to do schoolwork completely isolated in their homes.
“Having other people around you gives you more energy and might motivate you to do that work,” Frischmon explained. “I truly love being at school and being with people.”
At the very least, she’s hoping the crisis will be resolved by next fall, when she’ll start her first year at the University of Minnesota, where she will study engineering.
It’s strange for Lewis to be isolated with her parents and sister at home every day, but in some ways social distancing is familiar.
“I’m an introvert, so this isn’t that far off from my typical weekend,” Lewis said with a laugh. Plus, she has several friends who live scattered across the country and “we’ve kind of been doing this long-distance friendship thing for a couple months now,” she added.
Frischmon is an extrovert, but having her four siblings and two parents at home has helped with the social isolation.
“I’ve actually really appreciated having people around,” Frischmon said. “I’ve always loved having a big family.”
Both Lewis and Frischmon are taking the downtime to learn new skills and brush up on creativity. For Lewis, that means photography, drawing, writing and reading; for Frischmon, when she’s not working at Target or watching a TV show with her older sister, she’s picked up sketching.
“I am a little bit nervous to go to work, but I also know I’m really needed there,” Frischmon said.
Laughter has helped with pandemic stress for many students, particularly online.
“My generation really likes to use humor as a defense mechanism, and social media is a really good way to do that,” Lewis observed.
That’s a blessing and a curse. While coping mechanisms are an important way to stay balanced during stressful times, Lewis worries that if all the information a person has about coronavirus comes from the countless Instagram and TikTok accounts that are turning anxiety into memes, it might make them take the pandemic less seriously.
“I think a lot of people weren’t that concerned, a lot of young people still aren’t concerned,” she said. “There are definitely some people who are still out living their lives.”
Frischmon is balancing information about the crisis with humor. She checks national and statewide news once a day and is planning a presentation party over Zoom, the video conferencing platform, with her friends. Her topic will be “things that annoy me more than quarantine,” she joked.
Bickler and Frischmon are trying to see the bright side of the situation.
“In the meantime, and not to sound too cheesy, let this time of being apart allow us to become closer. Closer with friends, with family, and with ourselves,” Bickler said.
“In a way, we could all be a little bit grateful that we get to be so upset about this and so sad, because I think it shows how incredible our high school experiences were that we get to grieve them,” Frischmon reflected. “We’ve had these wonderful experience that can never be taken away.”
The global scale of the problem has put the loss of such milestones into perspective. Lewis put it into a wider frame.
“We’re in life or death situations right now,” she said. “I would choose life over senior prom.”
Buses cut by 65%
From courtroom to
Social-distancing friendly exercise