Vishaala Wilkinson was 13 years old when her grandfather died on March 6, 2020. One week later, the pandemic arrived.
Her school, Earl Warren Middle in Solana Beach, closed indefinitely. A trip she was going to make to Vienna, Austria, as part of the San Diego Children’s Choir was cancelled. So was middle school graduation. And the first day of high school? Entirely virtual.
“At that point, I was just numb to everything that was happening,” Vishaala said. “It was constant disappointment ... so at that point it was just like, yeah, whatever.”
Vishaala is an extrovert, a high-achieving student who plays basketball and piano, sings in choir and performs in school theatre.
But during the pandemic, Vishaala was suddenly stuck at home and stuck in her own thoughts, and she began to brood.
For a while, she felt guilty for not being more productive or exercising enough. She started to fixate on her body and worry she would get fat because she wasn’t playing basketball. She’d watch videos of social media influencers “living their best life” and feel bad about herself, thinking she wasn’t doing the same.
For Vishaala, who’s now a freshman at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley, distance learning has been boring and draining. Online classes strain her eyes and she often gets headaches.
But she believes she has become a better person because of the pandemic. She has been learning to fend off those anxieties and insecurities by being kinder to herself. She knows she does not have to be perfect because perfection is not an attainable goal.
Little things have brightened her days: a plate of cookies with tea in the morning, rain, and her freshman class Google chat, which has allowed her to make friends even though she’s not in school. She has been spending more time with her parents and going on walks with them. She has been enjoying the delicious Indian cooking by her grandmother, who lives with her family. She has also enjoyed doing online rehearsals for her school musical, “The Theory of Relativity.”
Some of the best days were when she got to meet with her fellow choir members in person, outdoors, for singing practice.
“In a way, that was good for me to become flexible, and life doesn’t always go as planned,” she said. “I think it was challenging, but it was good in the end.”
— Kristen Taketa is a reporter for The San Diego Union Tribune
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