Why celebrations should continue during quarantine

Congratulatory messages from family members and exciting end-of-year activities have been familiar occurrences at the end of every school year since kindergarten. Yet, when the number of assignments began to dwindle and teachers sent out congratulatory emails as my junior year came to a close, my mood was not triumphant but rather disappointed. 

 Due to COVID-19, the workload for most of my classes was cut down substantially. Teachers altered their grading scales to help students out, and I even found enough time to pick up new hobbies while completing my distance learning assignments. I could not help but ask myself, “Doesn’t all of this mean that I am not really finishing off the year strong?” 

After 16 years of believing that trial combined with perseverance is what deserves celebration, I struggled to be proud of finishing off this school year. The satisfaction of pushing through the sleepless nights and challenging finals was missing for me as the school year came to an end.

But whether I wanted it to or not, COVID-19 has, and is continuing to, change things drastically. After March 13, the last day of school on campus for Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) students, I was swept away by the current of precaution and change along with thousands of other students. 

It may not feel natural to celebrate right now. Or maybe like me, you find it difficult to replace the ending you imagined for this school year with the reality. You might also feel that it is wrong to enjoy any successes while others deal with terrible tragedy and loss, but it is in fact important to rejoice in anything we can during this time. Not only does a celebratory and positive mindset help combat the sadder current events, but it can also improve one’s mental health.

The COVID-19 pandemic should not hinder students from celebrating their accomplishments. Instead, students should remain optimistic and use today’s unprecedented reality as a motivation to spread positivity. (Laurinne Eugenio)

As Lisa Picard wrote in an article for the Washington Post titled “Why it’s important to celebrate kids’ birthdays during a pandemic — and how to do it,” “The coronavirus is causing unprecedented devastation, and it’s okay to cherish a moment of brightness.” While this was applied to birthday festivities, this is also a relevant mindset for other regular occurrences in life that are continuing during quarantine.

Picard highlighted something I had not yet fully acknowledged when I first reacted to the unusual way I was forced to tie up my classes this year. The changes that are happening around us should not be seen as reasons not to celebrate, but rather should lead us to celebrate even more when we have reason to. 

And I do. Even if I did not have any final exams to test the knowledge I had gained throughout the year, I can celebrate having worked hard to learn everything I did. I also can celebrate the commitment I showed by continuing to work hard in my classes even after my grades could not go down due to a SUHSD policy. 

Not only is enjoying successes helpful in this challenging time, but focusing on what we are grateful for can improve our mental health, according to psychotherapist Zachary Alti, who wrote for Psychology Today, that “There are always things to be grateful for (even now), and gratitude reminds us how special, beautiful and fortunate our lives are, even under stressful or hazardous conditions.”

Importantly, I am also in a very lucky position compared to what other people throughout my community and the world are going through right now. Not getting to push myself through the end of my junior year is a very minor struggle, but it emphasized a larger idea for me. A celebratory mindset is what we need as we continue into another month of quarantine and individual challenges.

Everyone has had disappointing and difficult moments since the world changed due to COVID-19, but we have also had successes and triumphs, even if we might not have recognized them yet. Highlighting and enjoying these successes can help promote positivity in our lives, and we all should fully believe that we deserve that positivity.

Perhaps commemoration looks like sharing a cake with family, hosting a Zoom call with friends or just acknowledging your accomplishments and granting yourself time to reflect on them. 

As I said, I have always been a big believer in reaching accomplishments through hard work, and I was not expecting that this notion would feel tested as the month of May drew to a close. But, instead of dwelling on what I was planning on achieving, I will acknowledge the changes that have led to my new experiences, and the unique achievements that exist throughout them. In this way, my response to uncertainty and disappointment will be a mindset of gratitude and celebration.