This time last year, M was chatting with her future college soccer teammates, connecting with future classmates, and checking out my parents’ Facebook group for cute boys. She was so excited. This year, my group’s become active again, and I asked if she wanted to take a look. Nope. She’s not allowing herself to get excited this time. After getting burned last year, she doesn’t want to set herself up for any more heartbreak than necessary.

Sometimes when we’re all chatting, Cute W will ask, “So, where should we travel first, once we can travel?” After all, we’ve had to cancel a trip to Mexico, a trip to a lake, visits with family, and whatever else we might have done over the past year. He likes the idea of planning future adventures when we feel so stuck. And I wish I liked the idea, but generally, it just makes me sad. Usually, the rest of us shut the conversation down pretty quickly. It just feels too depressing when we don’t know when or how we’ll be able to travel in the future.

Among us, J’s probably been the most pessimistic. A sophomore this year, she’s been skeptical that she’ll ever attend high school in a normal way. It’s difficult to hope for school, or sports, or college, when you’re not sure if it’s going to be possible, and that’s made it hard to plan or feel particularly motivated. J’s managed to keep up great grades because that’s just how she rolls, but even choosing next year’s class schedule felt fraught, analyzing which classes would still be worthwhile online versus in person.

Normally at this time of year, J would be doing track at least five days a week and volleyball at least two or three days a week, with weekends spent at track meets or volleyball tournaments. Instead, she has volleyball one day a week right now, and the extra time is going into completely different things: trumpet, art, cooking, and other diversions. With the world so altered, it’s hard to know what she would be doing if she could be doing it. What will stick and what will fall away if and when things get normal? We’ll just have to wait and see, because right now she won’t speculate about the future.

Or at least, that’s how it’s been for months. On our drive home from Savannah, I checked email and found out that the school is planning a mini season for J’s volleyball team. That is a hugely big deal for us. J was so excited for volleyball this year — the 2019 season ended with a sectional win for the varsity team and J was pulled up to sit on the bench for the post-season, a nod that generally means that they’re expecting you to be on varsity for the following year. J was thrilled at the opportunity of playing with this year’s seniors, girls she really likes and admires. And then, of course, it didn’t happen. And missing out on that experience has had its whole mourning, stages-of-grief process. So when I read the email out loud as we sped away from an emotional week with my family, we all may or may not have burst into happy tears. The season is set to start on March 7th.

J really didn’t expect that volleyball would be possible at all, and it won’t be normal. We’re all a little nervous about exposure to more kids, and we parents won’t be able to sit in the stands — instead, we’ll likely just watch via livestream online. Still, this opportunity for normalcy is a light at the end of the tunnel that’s brightened all of our outlooks.

I hadn’t realized quite how much it’s shifted perspectives until the other day, when J was attending her online Spanish class. They were learning about vocabulary for travel by with a project to plan a future trip abroad when she pinged a text to my phone.

We need to renew my passport.


  1. Mary Ellen

    Katie, thanks for the excellent and uplifting post. I heard a doctor on the radio say that now is the time to grip the ladder harder and keep climbing to the light. Keep us posted on future travel ideas!

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