Monica didn't get the Year 12 experience she expected. Instead of being surrounded by friends and the support of in-person learning, she was isolated at home most - as most of us were in Melbourne - during the grueling 15-week lockdown. But she discovered in that time that she isn't a victim of her circumstances.
Fortunately for Monica, she lived within 5 km of one of Melbourne's gorgeous beaches. So it was an easy pick to do her photoshoot and interview at the place where she spent much of the lockdown - the Dromana Beach.
We started early in the morning to avoid the crowds and hot summer sun. We started on the pier which I learnt is the most photographed pier on the Mornington Peninsula.
This location was not only picture perfect but gave Monica a variety of shots within such a small area. We wandered along the pier and even explored under the pier and ended our morning near the beach boxes.
During the long lockdown, Monica came to this beach for the daily allowance of outside exercise. She spent a lot of time here painting and reading by the calm of the shore. It gave her time to reflect on the things that really matter to her and time to think about her goals, not just career or academic goals, but also her goals in becoming a person of character and integrity. Those reflections may have been harder to develop during a 'normal' school year - being busy with all the regular Year 12 activities on top of studying for the VCE. That she took time to be by herself and reflect on life during the lockdown was one of the benefits she said she experienced as a result of everything being shut down or canceled for nearly four months.
One big realisation Monica shared is that that we don't need to be victims of our circumstances. We may not get to always choose what happens to us, but we can decide how we choose to live in spite of the circumstances. And so rather than sulk about the lost year, Monica shared how she pursued her hobbies of painting, making music on her piano and frequently visiting this beach with her camera or a good book.
Monica had never done anything like this before, so she told me she was a bit nervous at first. But she came prepared with multiple outfits and some fun props that showcased her hobbies like her Polaroid camera, some books and even records. We had fun incorporating them into her session and in the end, the time flew by and we had these beautiful images to celebrate the end of lockdown and mark the very special time of her life - graduation from high school and into university. She plans to take a gap year. Who wouldn't after what we all went through in 2020? She's planning to work to save some money and start uni in 2022 where she plans to pursue journalism.
Watch the interview below to hear more from Monica.