It's Not Over Yet

I didn’t know what had happened. It was cold and I was tired. Yet that whole night it felt like a dream. Like I hadn’t woken up from my mother’s lap. I groggily walked as my parents held my hand. I only remembered waiting in a maze line of people and then the huge room with its massive art pieces on the wall.

People looked different. They talked differently. I heard them aggressively enunciating words I didn’t understand. Moving to New York from Ecuador was one of the first transitions from my life. Before that, I’ve never experienced snow except for the residue on the freezer or when the slushy man scraped the ice.

My second transition was starting school in New York. Those first years, my parents prepared me by teaching me with their broken English before I enrolled into school and, later, I decoded my homework with the help of a dictionary. 

My third biggest transition was when my aunt was killed by a stray bullet in 2016, when I was thirteen years old. The fourth when I started high school. And the fifth was the COVID-19 pandemic--and preparing to transition to college during this time. 

Life never goes as expected and COVID was an example of that. The world turned upside-down and school became virtual. As my best friend Anastasia said, “There’s screens surrounding me all the time.” In Pre-COVID times, technology was rarely used in school and there was more in-person communication. 

In interviews with Anastasia and Caleb, two high school seniors, there was a consensus that high school did not end up as expected, just like many expectations in life aren’t guaranteed. As children, Anastasia and I believed that high school was going to be how TV shows and movies like High School Musical had painted it. But later, we learned to see that life was different. Imagination was not to be confused with reality--the pain of moving on from childhood. 

All of these transitions were influenced and caused by singular events, and were all periods of change. Though we are always changing, there are moments that push us to make the changes we need to make. Many hurt, and it would sometimes feel like it’s the end or that there’s no moving on, but it’s actually the opposite. Growing up brings the ability to adapt to more situations in one’s life, and the ability of seeing life through a new set of eyes.

A bright afternoon outside my room. A plant taking its time to grow. November 2021.

I stared down at the dying flower,
Bent, looking down at its feet.
Fragile petals hiding its face.

I asked myself, “can it be saved?”
How long would it take for it to die?
If possible, how long would it take for it to heal?

May 2021

I turned 18. But I just want to be a child. April 2021.

As a child, I’d get jealous when my mom embraced another. I sometimes still do, especially children. Sometimes I don’t mind, but other times I wish I was their age again. Some things seem to be acceptable at that age, but less so when you grow older.

My mom often says she wished I was still a baby, or small enough to still be held. But that’s no longer possible. May 2021.

The wisdom tree carried a vital role throughout high school, it was often a hangout spot when the weather got warm. Other times, it was a place to think, read, reflect, or have conversations with friends, often leading to great ideas and solutions to daily challenges. March 2021.

Wisdom from Anastasia Cardona, 12th Grader: 

Enjoy time with your family,  elders, and friends as much as possible. You never know when it can be the last time. 

One can never be too safe. Life is unexpected and you never know when the expected becomes the unexpected.

People and friends come and go. Do not live to please the opinions of others.

May 2021

Until March 13th of 2020, our lives played in a constant rhythm. Once the pandemic hit, many believed that schools or jobs would shut down for only two weeks, but instead it was a year. 

Throughout that year, many buildings near my school in the South Bronx were built, including the new precinct and a new residential area. These new buildings blocked the view of Third Ave from my building. March 2021.

An empty locker in an empty hallway. May 2021.

Time went by so fast that the realization of moving on to a new stage of life hasn’t hit some students. May 2021.

When I returned to in-person school for exams, hallways, and classrooms--a place once bright with students and teachers---now in darkness. May 2021.

My mom and me, eating lunch at church. November 2020.

During quarantine, life felt cold and motionless but, eventually, the warmth of the sun came. November 2020.

My mom folds her hand in church as she listens to the pastor preach. Along with the many changes in 2020, switching to a new church was one of them. Many churches, including our old church, closed down due to the pandemic and church in a virtual setting wasn’t the same, so we sought out a church that was in-person and near our home. May 2021.

Age is something that can’t be controlled. No matter how much one wants to regress to a young age. One only keeps growing and time never stops. January 2021.

The famous ‘Slide Rock’  located at St. Mary’s Park. A rock that many people residing in the South Bronx think of when recalling their childhood. March 2021.

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