Pandemic: One Teen’s Perspective

April 1, 2020
Photo from Pexels.

These days, it feels like we are living in a science-fiction movie. If just a few months ago someone said the entire world basically would be on lockdown, no one would have believed it.

This pandemic is terrifying and devastating in many ways, and I am taking the “stay at home” advice very seriously.

When my older brothers were younger, my mom often asked after school how their day went. She typically got a one-word answer such as “Good.” If she then continued to prod with more questions, such as “Tell me what you did today,” the answers usually were something to the effect of “nothing much.” Tired of the one- or two-word answers, by the time I came around, my mom changed her line of questioning to prompt more detailed answers. Unlike my brothers, I was a “talker” and would literally give her every detail imaginable.

As I got older, I tended to worry about a lot of things, so ultimately, my mom’s questions were streamlined into her asking one thing: “Tell me one thing that made you happy or grateful today.” And that has become the question we talk about at the end of most days, especially recently.

Thinking about that question reminds me that no matter how severe the situation, there still is goodness in the world, and this pandemic has some silver linings. Thinking about what I am grateful for makes me feel a bit better amid this whirlwind of fear and negativity.

1.  I am grateful to have a roof over my head and food on our table. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for people who don’t have those luxuries. I am grateful for the many luxuries we normally take for granted that are on temporary hold, such as going to the mall, hanging out with friends, going to eat out and even simply hugging people.

2. I am grateful that the dizzying pace we’re going at has slowed down. I’m so used to waking up early, grabbing breakfast, rushing off to school in time for the bell, coming home to a pile of homework, attending afterschool activities, going on auditions and dealing with a million other obligations. Right now, even though we still have school online during the week, I have the entire day to complete my work and I’m not rushing off anywhere. At. All.

3. I am grateful that staying at home has enabled me to reconnect with my siblings. With school and activities halted, many kids and teens are realizing their siblings are built-in best friends. Yes, we still may argue, but at the end of the day, we are lucky to have each other.

4. In keeping with the above, I am grateful I have a family who loves me and being together so much recently has enabled us to really reconnect. We now cook together, eat meals together, play old-fashioned board games and just spend time together in general. I used to say I sometimes wanted life to feel like I imagined it to be back in the 1970s and ’80s, with no social media and having time with my family. Well, here it is. And I like it.

5. I am grateful for my teachers who are rising to the occasion during this challenging time and teaching us remotely. For some of the younger teachers, doing classes on Zoom may have been an easy transition, but for some of the older teachers who are not as internet savvy, it may have been a difficult adjustment. And I’m grateful we have the technology that enables us to continue learning remotely so we have a bit of normalcy in this not-so-normal situation.

6. I am especially grateful for my Freshman Seminar teacher, Mr. Weinstein, who assigned a book called “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey. The book explains that in many ways, we are in the drivers’ seats of our own happiness. It encourages the reader to avoid spending time worrying about things we can’t control, and just be grateful for the things we can control and the positives in our lives. It teaches us to focus on things we can do something about, and not worry about the things we can’t — to look at the glass as half full, not half empty. The book explains that every setback is an opportunity for triumph. Reading that book could not have come at a better time.

7. I am very grateful for the internet at this time as well. A few months ago, I wrote a story for the Journal headlined “When Social Media Becomes Too Much — Even for a Teen,” talking about the internet and social media and how it can be a double-edged sword. Right now, despite most of us being physically isolated, I thank goodness for the internet and social media because it enables us to remain social, and it’s a much-needed lifeline to the outside world. People are able to speak with each other via FaceTime, What’s App, WeChat and other apps. Schools and workplaces use Zoom and other online meeting places to continue teaching and doing business. Our extended family even had a Zoom “party” for my dad’s and brother’s birthdays last week. Groceries and other necessities can be ordered online. Parents and families can follow the news and updates on the world’s situation in real time. So right now, the internet and social media have been life-saving in many ways. I can’t imagine what this would be like without having hundreds of people to “talk” to and commiserate with.

8. As many of the memes going around have pointed out, I’m grateful teens are not being drafted to war. We simply are being asked to stay home and away from people to try to stop the virus from spreading. I also think about the meme that says, “If your teens are bored, tell them to read ‘The Diary of Anne Frank.’ ” That definitely puts things in perspective.

9. I am grateful to the medical professionals, grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, police, mail carriers and others who are going to work despite the risks they face every day.

10. I am grateful I live in a world where neighbors are helping neighbors. People are going out for walks in their neighborhoods while social distancing. This is the first time I’ve seen so many families out walking, connecting with nature and socializing from a distance. Healthy people are getting groceries for the elderly and stores are opening early for the elderly as well. Videos are going around the internet showing people coming out to applaud health care workers at a certain time of day to show their collective appreciation. People in Israel and Italy are coming out onto their apartment balconies to sing and support one another. Doctors and scientists worldwide are working to find a vaccine and medications that may work. Some of our more privileged world citizens, such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates, are stepping up and using their privilege to help the world as well.

After this pandemic is under control, I wonder if the pause button will be released and the world will resume at the dizzying pace it was at in the not-so-distant past. Will we all learn to slow down, appreciate life and take advantage of every moment? Since the pandemic has affected the entire world, this might be the first time in history that the entire planet is working collectively toward a common goal. Could this be the reset the world desperately needed, and perhaps a stepping stone to world unity and peace?

Riley Jackson is a high school freshman in Los Angeles. She is interested in acting, writing and music. She is the founder of Driving With Daisy, a charity that supports underprivileged children. 

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