June seems so far away now. Amidst the global pandemic, Sheriauna completed grade 8 and within those 3.5 months that schools across Ontario were closed, I watched my little girl grow so gracefully before my eyes. At the beginning of the pandemic she was anxious and very upset about the impact that COVID-19 had on her life. She was upset that she could not see her friends, go to dance and track, and had to spend most of her time indoors. She then moved to concern about what was really going on. Sheriauna began to look for information and like many of us, she was uncertain about what was the most accurate information. Thankfully her school was on the ball with getting back to class virtually and she had live instruction daily with her small but mighty class and her amazing teacher.
As each day passed, Sheriauna began to find calm and realized that this was a journey we were all on and she began to embrace the blessings of our circumstance. There were definitely frustrations with several people working from home, WiFi issues, less social outings, and two lovable but at times annoying little brothers. Add in racial uprising and the Black community using their voices to really demand change and it was heavy on so many levels. During the end of May and June we had many discussions surrounding the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Sheriauna was upset, sad, and couldn’t understand why this was happening but she was engaged and she found new ways to use her voice and lead amongst her peers. Sheriauna began to find a balance with support from us as parents and supportive family and friends.
As the end of grade 8 approached she said, “Mom, I think I’ve really matured in just the past 3 months since the pandemic shut everything down”. To hear her vocalize that self reflection gave me reassurance that her resilience was still going strong. A grade 8 graduation ceremony was unsure and so the planning began for a drive by celebration. The day of the celebration initiated an emotional release that I think we all did not expect. Watching Sheriauna cry as she saw her teachers, Principal, friends and family honk their horns and cheer her on really hit me hard in so many ways. In those moments we all felt the love and the desire we had for social connection in person. Sheriauna began to realize that the was coming to the end of a significant time in her life; the chapter of her childhood was coming to a close and the new era of her teenage life was set to start. This pandemic was and is a lot but we are still standing; my little girl is evolving daily and becoming even more independent; and a new adventure will soon ensue.
When I asked Sheriauna how the past few months have impacted her and how she views herself and life she said: “I didn’t like this pandemic at all but I had to live with it. It made me realize that a lot of us don’t have a bunch of time on this earth so what I’m trying to say is the way I changed positively is that I am spending more time with my family and enjoying their presence. Negatively I notice I am way more short tempted so ya..but I am working on it”.
Fast forward through a beautiful summer that allowed us to enjoy simple pleasures and spend time with family and friends that we hadn’t seen for some time, and here we are in September and first days back to school. I say “days” because there have been so many changes with the return to school plans that we technically had 2 first days. Sheriauna’s first day of school virtually did not go as planned which I do not think many people are surprised about so we had a do-over on her second day which was the day she actually went into school for class. In all of this there has been excitement, nervousness, fear, anxiety, hope, and faith. Sheriauna has experienced so many emotions but she is ready; ready for this next chapter and new adventures. She is ready to make new friends, expand her skills as a dancer and performer, challenge herself academically, and have all of the great experiences that high school brings. For her graduation we asked all of our friends and family to create a video wishing her well on her journey and also to give her some advice as she prepares to enter high school. The ones that really ring true and that I believe are so much more important than anything she will learn from a text book are:
Trust God and have faith
Be authentic and true to yourself
Follow your instincts
Have a plan and be prepared
Evaluate your friendships and hold the dear ones close
Participate and engage in your school community
With COVID-19 still present and not going anywhere, I do not know how it will all play out for Sheriauna and all the young people returning to school this month, but I believe that persistence and resilience are characteristics that she possesses in abundance, and with that she will find a way to have an authentic and memorable high school journey. Here’s to the next chapter and continuing to create the pages of our story.