As last year staggered to an end, Staples High School English teacher Ann Neary had an idea.
She asked students in her AP Literature and AP World Literature classes to reflect on what they’d seen, felt and observed since the pandemic struck. The assignment: “Pack a trunk with the positive things you learned and/or came to appreciate in 2020, and want to travel with in 2021.”
The answers were perceptive, poignant, and beautifully expressed. I asked Ann if it was okay to share them with “06880”; the students agreed.
Here are a few. As you read them, you’ll be inspired. You’ll tear up.
And you’ll know that the future is in great hands.
I started learning things I enjoy on my own time.
The importance of patience.
Lots of introspection.
Crocheting so many shirts.
Learning to live with and find joy in being by myself.
Seeing the beauty and value in the small things around me.
In high school we all go with the flow and let life carry us in the direction it does. But without sports and less social activities, quarantine forced me to control what I did on a daily basis, and be more proactive in living the life I want to live.
I grew to love rock climbing even more.
Really having to focus on self-discipline.
I learned to appreciate simplicity in life.
Once I came to terms that there are things out of your control that will affect you, and that all you can do is improve yourself through things you can control, life is a lot happier.
I became a better reader.
I took more opportunities to help my community.
I became more confident, outgoing and assertive.
Dinners and 1,000 piece puzzle moments with my family that I really valued, and hope to see more of.
How much I value normal school, going daily, packed cafeterias, etc.
I developed deeper and more meaningful relationships with people.
I became more self-sufficient.
Noticing how everyone is working together, and trying their best to make things work.
I understood that my happiness isn’t dependent on other people, and life is what I make of it.
I started meditating.
Strengthened current friendships, and made new ones.
I developed a better and more diverse appreciation for music.
I realized how much I genuinely like being home. I also realized how much goes into keeping our house going, like doing laundry, cooking, grocery shopping and taking care of our dog.
Bought my truck, and furthered my interest in automotive work.
I realized how much fun and work can be had at any time. There’s always so much to do.
Writing poetry is therapeutic.
We can’t just take family for granted, at least for us who are lucky enough to have loving and kind parents and siblings.
How to handle disappointment, and deal with things that are less than ideal.
How to be a productive member of society, and advocate for change that doesn’t affect me personally.
To prioritize my mental health.
I realized how much I took for granted.
Patience, flexibility, motivation, gratitude, time management, getting out of my comfort zone.
How to be content with only my own company in quarantine. How to entertain myself without copious stimuli.
It’s okay to spend time learning about what you love and what you want to do, instead of always being around people and trying to please others.
Nothing went the way we planned this year, but for the most part things worked themselves out. They usually will.
Taking time to appreciate the outdoors and our yard, and little things like feeding the birds.
Mental health is a lot more important than always trying to prove myself to be perfect.
I’ve picked up new hobbies like aquarium keeping.
Be kind not only to people around you, but especially the people less fortunate than you.
Reading and watching the news; becoming more aware.
Hikes and walks at the beach.
Seeing what other families have gone through with COVID or other issues makes me feel so grateful that my family is healthy and safe.
Whenever I was stressed I would drive around Fairfield County and listen to music.
Learning to appreciate nature when I walk my dog.
In-person school becoming something I look forward to.
Time to pause and make sure I’m doing okay and improve myself, instead of just worrying about improving my grades.
There is such great value in complimenting others — especially in the few moments we get to see people in person.
I seriously read epic poetry of my own volition. It’s a unique way to tell stories.
It’s much more challenging to spend time with friends, so I try to live in the moment and enjoy it when I am able to do that.
Cook new foods.
Lack of school-related stress.
I have a new understanding of and respect for my family.
Never expect what is expected. Situations arise instantly. We are always responsible to face them.
I got perspective on the small but important things we may not think about when we have them freely, and in abundance.
My sister is usually at boarding school. I’m grateful she was in quarantine with me, because she makes everything more fun.
I’m proud of learning to value my feelings more. In the past I have been a bit of a people pleaser. This year I finally allowed myself more joy in doing what I wanted, while obviously making sure others were okay.
I love going on 6-mile walks with my friend at 6 in the morning.
Spending every single moment with my family for 4 months allowed me to create amazing memories.
The bond I created with my football team. Despite playing only a few games, we always stayed hungry and excited to play whenever we could.
2020 allowed me to surround myself with the people I love.