2021-2022 Live Deliberately Essay Contest
Jamie Lim, 17
17-19 Age Group Winner
During the past two years, I have been playing tug-of-war with a global pandemic.
When COVID-19 ripped away my trip to North Carolina as a participant of the Duke University Talent Identification Program, I lost the opportunity to conduct hands-on investigations on TOPIC as well as explore the campus of a college on my application list.
But I pulled back.
I enrolled in an online biomedical engineering (BME) course and became drawn to developing healthcare solutions through medical applications. In the end, this course awakened my desire to major in BME and convinced me to pursue an internship at a prosthetics company the next summer. Hours of fabricating artificial legs at the lab solidified my calling to both BME and a career in healthcare.
When COVID-19 ripped away my internship at the Animal Healthcare Clinic of Southlake and my volunteer work at the Keller Regional Adoption Center, I lost the opportunity to interact with animals as well as discern veterinary medicine as a possible path for me.
But I pulled back.
I became a virtual graphic designer and artist for Town Cats of Morgan Hill, a cat shelter in California. I created flyers, t-shirt designs, and feline portraits to advertise adoptions. Aside from using my longtime love for animals to find homes for cats, I discovered a sense of resiliency that I had not realized I possessed.
When COVID-19 ripped away my ability to attend sandwich-making sessions hosted by the outreach ministry at my parish, I lost the opportunity to organize food donations into boxes for the poor, homeless, and families in need.
But I pulled back.
While food satisfies empty stomachs, it does not completely fill the void in morale. Thus, my sister and I organized Food for Thought, a project that boosts people’s spirits with inspirational Bible verses and saint quotes written on cards by students at our schools. This project illustrated the power of small deeds; a single handwritten card can bring immense joy to its recipient.
The pandemic pulled, so I pulled back . . . until the rope slipped from my fingers.
After COVID-19 decimated the travel industry, my dad had lost his job. When he finally found work the next year, we received news that my grandparents, who lived in the Philippines, had contracted COVID-19. They were both hospitalized and passed away shortly. My family said our goodbyes through the iPad as my beloved grandparents lay dying in a hospital thousands of miles away.
Mourning the loss of my grandparents, I experienced a deeper and more permanent pain than before. The Duke University program, the vet clinic internship, the animal shelter volunteer work, the sandwich making sessions – all these opportunities were replaceable.
My grandparents were not.
It has been nine months since I last received a message from my grandparents. I continue to text them, ironically more often than before. Aside from grieving the fact that I would never hear my grandpa’s bellowing laugh or draw flowers with my grandma, I felt eaten alive by regret at not fully appreciating our time together.
Reflecting on the world during the pandemic, I believe that a primary strength revolves around people’s ability to foster connections without the comfort of familiarity. I witnessed this strength in the students thrown together as prosthetics lab interns who emerged as friends. I witnessed this strength in the volunteer group at Town Cats that bonded over a mutual love for animals. I witnessed this strength in the students who united to provide over 2000 cards for Food for Thought.
I have realized that the tug-of-war battle is not solely between the pandemic and me. Every person is fighting. Every person has personal struggles and losses. And every person has other people that he or she depends on.
However, a testament to a weakness of the world, we often take these people for granted. Ironically, while the absence of familiarity can harvest new relationships, the presence of familiarity can dull their zest. Perhaps one of the most important lessons to learn is that a normalcy today could become a memory tomorrow. Something or someone taken for granted today could be painfully missed tomorrow.
As Henry Thoreau once explained, “not till we have lost the world, do we . . . realize . . . the infinite extent of our relations.”
But let us not wait for loss before we cherish what we have now. This way, when the pandemic rips away something we have, we can pull back with what is left.