I wrote this to provide a glimpse into what students have been experiencing throughout Covid-19's presence in our lives. Last year, it felt like nobody knew what was going on with our education and everything was pushed off to the side as if we didn't matter. Most conversations were centered around people's jobs and the economy, while we were left struggling to pick ourselves up. With this piece, I wanted to highlight how young people experienced the pandemic and reveal our struggles with the world to bring awareness towards our situation.
Here are the voices of Lisa, Serena, Anthony, Viviana, Ayana, and me, Nadely.
In March 2020, I was sitting at the kitchen counter when I heard President Trump speak at a press conference. "I am officially declaring a national emergency — two very big words. The action I am taking will open up access up to $50 billion dollars.”
I was in complete disbelief this was happening. So suddenly, the country was declaring a national emergency. My mother and brother, on the other hand, were going on about their political theories and how it's all a sabotaging plot to control us.
I remember rolling my eyes and quickly taking out my phone to see what my friends were saying about the news. They had the same reactions, although some were concerned that we might not return to school after Spring Break.
"Of course, we're going back.,”I texted to my friends. “It's probably just like the flu and it'll be gone before we even know it."
I thought we would be reunited in no time.
- Serena, March 13th 2020
We soon found out that Spring Break was extended, as school officials waited to learn more information about the virus. For the first time, I began to feel a little nervous about this whole situation, but I was also very happy for the extra days of vacation. School, over the past few months, had been very stressful. I was struggling with self-esteem issues and it felt nice to not feel pressured about my image.
- Anthony, March 13th 2020
Online school started a couple days ago. So far, it's not so bad, but I was really hoping we would return to school before the year was over, but as of now, I don't think that's going to happen. I guess to try to distract myself from this whole situation, I've been trying to occupy myself with school work. My teachers have been very supportive during this time since everything is up in the air. On the other hand, my friends are very angry about the whole situation.
"How are they assigning homework in the middle of a health crisis?!" one of them said in frustration.
I agreed. It didn't make sense how everything could change in a matter of weeks. The government also wasn't making the situation any easier. As more people were dying each day, economic relief and public health measures were stalled. Our country was extremely divided and it was starting to appear on the surface now.
- Ayana, March 23th 2020
Today was my birthday! Yay, I guess.. It felt very weird having my family members sing "Happy Birthday" through FaceTime, but this was the new normal. I had finally come to the realization that this wasn't going to be temporary. While I was crying because it was such a wonderful day, a part of me wanted everything to go back to normal. I wanted to go back to a world where I could see my friends without being scared of the outside world. I didn’t want to worry everyday about my father getting sick from his job as a frontline worker at a grocery store. I missed the time when wearing a mask wasn't a political statement, but rather a health protection for yourself and the people around you. At that moment, I just wanted to feel normal once again.
- Anthony, April 27th 2020
There's been lots of highs and lows, but I think I'm sort of getting used to this routine of being stuck in my home all day. Oh, I also went to the store for the first time in a month and I felt a rush of adrenaline from going outside. I've been social distancing 12 feet from others instead of the recommended 6 feet. There has been a lot of mixed messaging from the government, so it's better to be safe than sorry. I started to feel a little distanced from my friends as I hadn't been texting them as much. I haven’t seen them in person for around 4 months and I think it’s starting to take its toll on our relationships. For the most part, though, I've just been trying to remain positive and think about all the free time I have to focus on my hobbies. It's actually not that bad.
- Viviana, May 30th 2020
I had a panic attack the other day. I don't even know what happened because it just all came crumbling down.My family definitely didn't help -- my father said to me, "why can't you just be normal?" It rings in my head everyday and I feel this constant pressure in my chest, almost like a suffocating sensation. I hate it, this whole situation. I hate being forced to be around people who don’t understand me or what I’m feeling. In the beginning, I remember saying to myself,"there's no way it could possibly get worse, right?" Little did I know, I hadn't seen the worst of it.
- Lisa, June 13th 2020
Time doesn't feel real, nothing does. I've started going on bike rides to do something other than just stay inside my room all day. It's very refreshing and makes me feel alive again, I feel some hope that things will improve. As of right now, the number of COVID-19 cases has reached 2 million.
Riding my bright green bike protects my mind from worrying too much about all the chaos in the world. The flowy trees, warmly lit sun, and even the passing people inspire and fill me with so much creativity. Although, would it be weird to say that the people walking remind me of those in a mental institution? All of them are dressed in plain clothes, walking around in circles, trying to find the silver lining in this whole situation. Hmm, just me? Ok.
- Nadely, sometime in late summer, 2020
School started a month ago. I can't believe that we are still in a pandemic and that people are dying by the thousands everyday with no vaccine in sight.
I've organized my own work space for school since there's no telling when this will all be over. It's a black desk facing an empty wall to keep me from getting distracted. I need to stay away from my bed so I don’t feel the desire of falling back to sleep. The TV plays in the background while I do my homework because it signals to my brain that I am not alone. Except that I am.
With all the time I had to myself over the summer, I developed a sense of self-appreciation. I no longer seek the validation of others since I largely quit social media as much. It's just me, me, me for the most part every single day.
- Anthony, September 2020
Looking back, it was rather dumb of me to not take this pandemic as seriously as I should have. 8 months later, politicians are still debating whether COVID-19 is a serious, and might I emphasize, real threat. If they still have to ask that question at this point, there's no telling when they’ll come up with an actual solution. It's really sad.
- Lisa, September 2020
With stress from school, complications in my personal life, and my unstable family situation, I've begun to develop a sleeping disorder. It happens every night and it scares me so much. I wake up panting heavily. Any sudden motion I might see in the dark startles me awake. This has been increasing my anxiety.
However, I think I might have found my silver lining, just like the people walking around the block. I unlock the window in my bedroom and lift up the heavy frame. I crawl to sit on my roof and I can breathe again .I sit at the highest point where I can see everything around me. And for a couple minutes, I feel like everything is ok. I feel a sense of purpose and that there is meaning to all of this. Most importantly, I truly love myself in that moment for everything I've overcome thus far. And as I embrace my body wrapped in my own arms, I say in a low whisper to myself, "thank you."
- Serena, October 2020