Pandemic Chronicles: Whippany Park Reflects on the Pandemic


Carolyn Wu, Staff Writer

The past year and a half was a memorable one, and not entirely in a good way for those of us, well, all of us, who experienced it. For some, adjusting to new unfamiliar circumstances, pushing through feelings of hopelessness and despair, and learning how to live at peace with ourselves, alone, is quite a lot to handle. For others, learning to overcome loss, the pain of loss, and illness itself became what seemed to be a never-ending struggle. But there is, after all, an underlying good that comes out of all troubled things, and it is only when we stop to reflect that we come to realize, acknowledge, and accept it. Indeed, there were many valuable lessons learned, feelings understood, and developments in self-growth that we have all, in some way, found in our varying pandemic experiences.

A number of questions were then sent to a member of each class and a teacher at Whippany Park, asking them to reflect on their personal experiences and to find meaning in them. It is my hope that they found some answers within themselves, for themselves, and that they learned something more about themselves. Their thoughts are written below.


Q: What is the single most important lesson you learned over the pandemic?

“To love myself more,” was the freshman response, “and how to love myself more. When the pandemic first began, I realized that I lacked confidence and self-love, and gradually, I learned to fully appreciate myself for who I am.”

“The value of slowing down and reflecting,” said the sophomore. “The value of taking the time to think about yourself, your life, and how you can change it for the better. I struggled with my mental health and finding balance in my life before the pandemic, and I realized in my time alone that I needed to begin to prioritize these matters going forward.”

“I’ve learned that many people are selfish,” replied the junior, “and I’ve never truly realized it before. I have seen countless people during the pandemic complaining about vaccines, wearing masks, and other such important matters that could save a life.”

“That I can do the things that I love,” the senior responded, and that “I can keep them private. I had always felt a lot of pressure to create things that I thought others would enjoy, and to then post them, hoping that my viewers would like them. I knew that my passions revolved around others’ perceptions of them, and I knew that needed to change. When the pandemic came around, I created so much that I could not share it all on the internet, and it was then that I realized that my projects had more worth when they were made for me. All we have to do is enjoy ourselves, and do what we love, for us.”

The remarkable ability of a person to adjust to anything, was the teacher’s response, when given no other option. There was much strength that I saw in the people around me, all pushing to make it through the trying times of the pandemic, and there was much success. It is certainly true that “you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” It’s one of the most beautiful things about humanity.


Question: What were some feelings you experienced during the pandemic season? Any recurring thoughts you had?

A feeling of hopelessness, the freshman said, was what I remember took control of me as the days, the months, went on. It was only two weeks at first, then after spring break, and now it still feels as though it might continue forever. The empty promise of a new normal frightened me, and at some points I believed that nothing could be the same. I still often wonder if we will truly ever have a new normal again.

It was as if I were stuck in a haze, the sophomore responded, and I didn’t know what was happening, why it was happening, or when it would end. I would wake up to a new day, but the days soon became so weary, so mundane that they all blended into the next. It felt as if the entire world was drained of excitement, replaced only by worry and exhaustion.

It was alright, at least at first, was the junior’s response, until the weeks turned to months and the months to a year, and loneliness filled everything that was left. Over time, however, I learned to find little sparks of happiness amidst all the uncertainty, beginning with making a few online friends.

“And all that I felt,” the senior replied, “was that it would never end. That we were to be trapped in an empty, befuddled mess of a world forever. I wanted to use the time that I had to work on myself, but I was often reminded of all that was missing, and all that might never come back if, one day, somehow it did end.”

“Worry,” the teacher said, “constantly filled my thoughts, worry for children, for kids, for teens, for parents, for elders, for anyone and everyone around me. Children could not learn fundamentals; kids were kept from socialization; teens in high school and college missed milestones and activities; parents struggled to provide for their children; elders were left on their own. I wondered and worried how they were doing in such difficult times, and hoped that their strength would carry them through.”


Question: Have you learned anything about yourself in your time away from others?

I have realized, the freshman responded, that I rely heavily on others for my happiness. During the pandemic, I often found myself struggling to be happy because I could not be around friends, family members, and others I cared about. I learned, above all, to cherish my time with the ones I love, because one day we may realize that we took it all for granted.

The sophomore’s response was similar to the freshman’s, revealing common connections between sentiments that are often only found when reflecting. I realized, they replied, that I relied heavily on others for my comfort as well, even if they were only there and not speaking to me. I felt far less isolated, as everyone did, but I also realized that I often used others as a distraction from my own thoughts and troubles. Having others there in my presence allowed me to escape for a while.

I found importance in valuing mental health, the junior responded, and in working to improve my mental health. I had never realized how much my mental health affected my everyday life before, and in my time alone, I took the time that I needed to reflect on it.

I learned that I can truly work through anything, was the senior’s response, as long as I take things slowly, day by day. One step at a time. I realized the many small victories that we experience in our daily lives, and these victories are always something to celebrate because we all deserve to celebrate ourselves and our progress in life.

In these reflections, we find that there is much truth, much beauty, to what we can discover in all of our past experiences, no matter how difficult or painful these experiences may have been. In these reflections, we find answers, we find peace, and we come to understand our world and ourselves a little more than we did before. Whippany Park has completed its thoughtful reflection of the pandemic, and I now encourage you, our reader, to do the same. Ask yourself the same questions above, and allow yourself to think on it, to discover the hidden meanings. And once you do, you may find that the world to you is clearer, more complete than it was before; you may find that the pandemic experience was a memorable one, and in more of a good way than you might initially expect.