I’m Ryan, a 19-year-old Navy brat. I have spent my life all around the world, having moved ten times, attended nine different schools, and persevered through several six-to-eight-month deployments. My family is currently stationed in D.C., yet I am a first-year student at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study concentrating in photography and social justice.
I have been fortunate enough to live across the states. Yet, some of my best memories come from living overseas both in Germany and Singapore. There, I learned the real power of having a military family thanks to the connectedness in the community. Germany was my first time living on base and attending a DODEA school. At the same time, in Singapore, you could find all the youth at the local CYP on any given day either to hang out or volunteer. That military family gave me a support system, a group of others who could understand my experiences and relate to what I had gone through. One that was compassionate, empathetic, and there to listen when I needed it most. Yet, it also gave me people to adventure and explore with so that I wouldn’t have to integrate myself into new places alone.
In adverse situations, this same community is more crucial than ever. Having a neighbor to check on you, even by text, or another teen to play videogames with online, can change the whole feeling of a stressful situation. I know how easy it is to feel anxious, upset and isolated when things get hard, but don’t forget that your military family is always out there. Whether it be to share information and resources, lend ideas, or give support, you can rely on them, even if they are thousands of miles away.
As a youth myself who’s in the middle of navigating the coronavirus outbreak, I understand how other teens feel right now. At first, I was unphased and unaffected, yet the virus spread rapidly, and it feels as if my whole life has been turned upside down in a flash.
Being a first-year student at NYU meant the outbreak became more urgent just before spring break. My service trip to the Dominican Republic was canceled, and I was upset. I was watching friends prepare for their own spring break travels, and I selfishly wanted to be them. Yet, none of us had any idea how quickly life would change before we could make it to our destinations.
I tried not to let the change affect me too much. Instead, I decided to come home to D.C. over the break to support my brother at his opening day baseball game. However, days before coming home, a friend at Columbia posted about the schools moving to online classes for an extended period due to the virus. Soon to follow, St. Johns, Fordham, The New School and other colleges and universities sent their students home in favor of remote classes. Sure enough, we received an email that NYU would move to online courses, and we shouldn’t expect to return to levels for at least two weeks. I called my family, booked a bus ticket home, and frantically started packing.
I was anxious and stressed, trying to choose what I would need and want for an undetermined amount of time at home. In the meantime, I attended my last in-person photography class, Introduction to Lighting. How do you properly learn studio lighting at home with no studio and no equipment? I felt so defeated. Having a lecture class online is already frustrating enough, but now, the course I had worked so hard to get into and to grow in felt like it was taken from me.
And as if things couldn’t get any worse, other opportunities I was looking forward too came to an end. My job as an admissions ambassador halted, my work with the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs was restricted, and my plan to attend the 4H military conference in Kansas City changed. I was devastated, feeling like I have no control over my situation.
Although upset, I was grateful that my safety had been prioritized and that I could return home to my family. However, I got back to find my brother, a high school senior, just as conflicted as I was about the situation. His school closed, and although it meant no class, it also put an indefinite end to his baseball season, something he had worked so hard for after shoulder surgery in the fall. He and his classmates are supposed to graduate in three months, but as of now, they are still anxious about what will happen to their prom and graduation ceremony, given the rapid spread of the virus.
To cope, both of us, along with many others, have turned to social media. Our school meme pages offer a sense of community and comic relief. It’s a place to see what others are thinking and how they are handling the situation. The pages also repost up-to-date memos from the school and the faculty, keeping us informed even when we aren’t the first to be notified. The viral trends let us vent about our feelings, and by sending them to friends, it’s a way for us to all laugh together even with social distancing.
Trust me when I say I know it feels like the sky is falling. We are all frustrated, angry, upset, stressed and probably somewhat bored. But remember, you aren’t alone. Military youth all around the world are being affected by the virus in similar ways. Schools are closing, sports are canceled, events are postponed, and some families are being evacuated while others are separated from loved ones. Despite the situation, the military family is still here to support you. Even though we can’t fix the problem, know there’s a community out there that’s still looking out for you and checking up on you wherever or whenever you may need it.