Entry 1: January 2020
I was out with my parents to have a walk at the Arnold Arboretum in West Roxbury. Everything was normal until we got home. I felt a pain in my stomach as if a bone was piercing throughout. That night, I had no appetite and went to bed. The pain didn’t stop for three days straight, and that Wednesday, before going to school to take a mandatory binder check, I went to my pediatrician.
Her explanation was that I had a stomach bug, and said that I should not eat if I don’t feel like it and should just drink fluids, namely ginger ale. Besides the pain, I wasn’t really complaining since ginger ale is a great drink.
For the next few days, ginger ale sustained me well, but I had a new problem: I had not been going to the bathroom for the last two days. My dad called the pediatrician, who simply said we need to rush to the hospital. Naturally, I hated this. I felt that I had been getting better and going to the ER is an exaggeration. That conviction was further supported by my hatred for needles. I spent the next three days in the PICU before doctors saw that my condition was relatively better, and sent me home.
Long story short, my birthday on February 2nd went terribly that week, since not only was I still in pain, but I was instructed to move as little as possible by both my doctors and my parents. This meant I couldn’t go out or just simply enjoy myself. To make matters worse, I was sent back to the ER seeing that my condition hadn’t gone away. This time, I was going to be there for a while.
For around the next month and a half, I was constantly going from my room in the PICU to many other wings in the hospital. What I will say is this stay was pretty enjoyable. I couldn’t do any school work which meant more rest, I could eat whatever I wanted from the hospital cantine (I would almost always choose chicken wings), and probably best of all, I got a very high-tech hospital bed that basically functioned as a seat in a car.
Through all this, I was getting constantly tested, whether it be through MRI, or through the EV, which basically is a straw attached to a bandage that is injected into you when you enter the ER. One day, my neurologist came and told us that I had apparently contracted an infection in my stomach that spread to my ventriculoperitoneal shunt, or VP shunt for short. I had this shunt since literally the day I was born due to my spina bifida, a birth defect, and it had not been active for God knows how long. But just because it wasn’t working didn’t mean it couldn’t cause issues apparently. He said we needed to remove it.
On the one hand, this was great because I could finally remove this bump I had on the top of my head. On the other, I thought it would affect a bump in my neck that I have become accustomed to and rather enjoyed. However, we ended up doing the surgery to remove it anyway. This was also around the time my grandmother came to visit from Tunisia to make sure I was ok through this trying time, and she will have a separate, and less painful issue later on.
The surgery was to be done in two stages, to remove the two halves of my shunt due to it snapping. I of course didn’t feel anything as I was put into a medically-induced coma, also known as anesthesia. When I woke up, however, I had tubes growing out of my head and a bandage wrapping around my head. I basically looked like Pinhead from the Hellraiser film franchise. The tube that stretched out of me was to monitor my head’s fluid levels. The principal reason the shunt was inserted into my body in the first place was to make sure said fluid wouldn’t overflow and enlarge my head. Thankfully, this experiment was a success (had it not worked I would’ve had a new shunt implanted), and in a few days, the second half of the shunt was removed later on.I was monitored for a few more days and was finally let go. This was also around the time COVID-19 was becoming an issue in the U.S. Within a few days of coming home, Boston Public Schools sent out messages saying it was postponing in-person learning. COVID-19, despite its benefits for me, was not very kind to my grandmother. She had intended to stay in the U.S. until I got out of the hospital safe and sound. But now travel was getting very difficult due to Covid and her return flight was postponed until they could figure out everything. She ended up going home in June, right when I was done with remote learning for 9th grade.
Entry 2: Second Half of School Year 2020
Speaking of remote learning, it wasn’t quite as I’d hoped. The idea of staying home for the rest of the year was great, its execution wasn’t quite so. First off, my school announced that everyone would pass their current grade regardless of their scores. This wasn’t great because I lost most of my motivation to go to school, and had it not been for my overbearing parents, as well as my own desire to gain all A’s on a report card for every term this year, I would not have attended any of my zoom classes.
Secondly, all the classes were made really pointless. The only class we really learned anything in was geometry. The other classes were just used as mandatory student check-ins, although some teachers did make their check-ins optional and only if students wanted help. I mainly used those sessions to get rid of any zeroes I got during my sick leave.
Some teachers canceled their finals and the third and fourth term were combined. Due to how loose school rules became at this time, my uncle, dad, grandmother, and I decided to take a road trip around the Eastern US on the last week of school. That week I was able to enjoy myself around states like Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, while also easily doing one hour of an AP World History “meet-and-greet.” Virginia was the most memorable, for two reasons. Number one, it’s where the U.S. capital Washington D.C. is, as well as so many great monuments like the Lincoln Memorial. Number two, we were present during a Black Lives Matter protest in front of the White House. Thankfully none of us were hurt but I recall very vividly one man getting carried out after being affected by tear gas. We got home safely and spent the last week of my grandma’s stay at home, not really doing anything due to Massachusetts Covid restrictions.
Entry 3: 2020-2021 School Year & AP Classes
My summer wasn’t very eventful. I really did nothing besides my summer job, school summer work, and traveling to Tunisia for a mere three weeks. I say “mere” because we normally spend around two months there. It was hard to enjoy the stay considering how short it was.
I had spent this entire school year at home, learning remotely. I don’t know if it was just my friends not trying or if I’m better but remote learning was a breeze for me. I maintained all A’s, sometimes getting a B+, even if some days I was only semi-focused on the lessons. The only class I really paid attention to was AP World History. History has never been my strong suit and since this class is meant to be college-level and there was an exam at the end, I really needed to focus.
And I did. But my parents weren’t too pleased with just that. Dad bought me a prep book in January and I was using it, but my parents didn’t believe me. After about an hour of arguing, which had become almost commonplace every weekend, he said in a rather threatening way that I had two options for how to approach my two exams, the other exam being computer science. I could either study at my own pace without either of my parents bothering me, and if I got under a four, I wouldn’t be able to use my electronic devices for entertainment for the summer. The other option was to be put under the mercy of my mom, who would take over most of my days, and taking this option meant there was no punishment for getting a bad score.
Now, I’m a very arrogant and impulsive dude. I believe in my supposed power and take on bets that I probably shouldn’t take, and end up paying the price. But this was worth it because I couldn’t possibly get under a four. After all, not only would my parents punish me, but according to my prep book, fours and fives allow you, in college, to skip whatever class you took for said four or five. That meant saving money and also not having a very tight schedule. Plus I am overly confident in my abilities. So I took my dad’s first option.
Turns out that deal was not going to fly with my mom. She took away my phone until I finished both exams. This was uncalled for and when I confronted her about it, in a respectful way, of course, she said she was not interfering and that the deal still stands. I don’t know if she was living in a different world when we were having the argument the other day, but I wasn’t about to ask my dad for his opinion and start another squabble. So I took that.
The entirety of April was spent with me finishing school, eating, taking an hour of break like I usually do, and then taking a practice AP History exam from my prep book. I timed the exam like I would be timed on exam day, May 20th, and after dinner, I would give the quiz to my mom to grade it for me. I didn’t want to do the grading myself because it was way too much flipping back and forth for me to handle.
By the time exam day came, I was semi-confident. I have been getting around 70% on my practice exams, which if the AP graders have basic logic, that would probably be around a three and a half or possibly a four. I took the exam on May 20th and, surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard.
A lot of the multiple-choice questions were related to parts of the AP History curriculum that I actually cared for and paid attention to the most. The DBQ (document-based question) essay was easy as well since you have all the evidence you need given to you.
The short-answer questions were moderately difficult. What baffled me the most about the SAQ was how much my teacher suggested we write. He said we should write around seven sentences per SAQ, and there was three total on the entire exam. That made zero sense because practically all the questions deserve a one-sentence response, and I feel it would’ve sufficed if they just gave the same questions as multiple-choice and gotten rid of the SAQ section entirely.
After I finished the History exam, I could calm down for the computer science exam the following week. We get two hours to do 70 multiple choice questions, compared to the 55 minutes for 55 questions on the history exam. The computer science exam was a breeze, and all I’ll say is, if I don’t get a five on this exam when my scores come out in August (they actually came out on June 21st), I will be very disappointed.
Spoiler alert: I got a 4 on both. Awesome!
Entry 4: Summer Vacation during Covid Season
June 18th came and I was stoked. Until that afternoon. See my dad is very old school and wants me to spend my time the way HE did when he was my age. That meant summer was practically indistinguishable from the school year. The only work I was planning on doing was summer reading and my summer job at the Summer Journalism Institute, which doesn’t start till July 6th.
He decided that I was going to do one hour of reading per day, one hour of driving practice for my learner’s permit, and I had to leave my room every 50 minutes and spend 10 minutes away from screens. Add on to that the fact that, thanks to my mom, I still had to leave my phone outside my room before going to sleep, just like with the AP prep.
The change, though somewhat unpleasant, was bearable. It was mainly worth it because I got to move my Play Station Four to my room instead of it being in the living room, where I’d have to ask to use it from either my parents or my sister. It was also fine because it was to be temporary, as we were planning to travel to Tunisia on July 4th, this time spending the usual two months.
Those plans almost came to a halt on June 25th, when we heard on the news that foreigners and citizens living abroad couldn’t come into the country without a PCR Covid test, regardless of vaccination status. My parents weren’t too thrilled, mainly my mom who complained about the test when she had to get it last year as well. To make matters worse, my father called his boss at work to tell him he was traveling. While it was allowed, he could only travel for a week and was unable to work overseas. So despite the challenges, we took the tests and traveled as planned.
The trip was mostly smooth. The only issue we faced was that my mom lost one of her luggage. Turns out it was still stuck in Boston because it was not given a sticker. We spent my dad’s weeklong stay in Tunisia without my mom’s luggage. It wasn’t until he went back to Boston that the luggage got sent back and we received it the following day.
And that’s the point in time in which I am writing. I am currently living in the basement of my grandparents’ under-construction three-story house, doing my summer internship that has been going really well. My whole family is following covid guidelines presented by the Tunisian authorities, including a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and keeping safe. Hopefully, the rest of my vacation continues smoothly so I can be refreshed for the new school year that will, as of now, be in person.
This past year and a half have been a mix of tough and good forms of crazy for me. Looking back on the events I mentioned here was a really enjoyable experience, mainly because I got to have a laugh at some of the craziest things that have happened to me. Reading my stories may also give you, the reader, a moment of reflection and catharsis on the past year, and you may also have a laugh at your own experiences as I had. Maybe you thought your life during covid was a tragedy, but after reading my stories, you realize that it was a comedy.