On the last Thursday before the March Break, students across Ontario heard the news that seemed only possible in a dream: two extra weeks off of school due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus. That evening, the information spread throughout social media within minutes of the articles being released. I sat through orchestra practice and I can’t tell you how quickly I saw everyone’s faces light up with excitement and disbelief.
Here’s the only problem: we had no idea of what was about to hit us.
Those two weeks have turned into an indefinite number of weeks. All those plans you made? Gone. Shot out of the air faster than the formation of the cafeteria line at lunch. Socializing is out, social distancing is in! That’s right ladies and gentlemen; we’ve given you the fine opportunity to sit around in your house and do absolutely nothing! At first, quarantine sounded pretty good. Scroll through Instagram for a bit, finally watch that Netflix show your friend suggested, maybe even do some baking. It’s not gonna last forever; how bad could it be? It’s turned out to be pretty bad and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon.
With COVID-19 literally taking over the world, there are few aspects of our lives that have been left unaffected. Although many students had hoped to take this time to talk with friends more often, 68% of the students I talked with feel that their friendships, support systems, and even romantic relationships have been affected negatively by the quarantine. Many students expressed that they communicate more in person than over text, and find it harder to keep contact when we aren’t seeing people at school on the daily. Giorgia Woolfe, a Grade 11 student at St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School, has found “[it] difficult to express emotion over text and [feels] that more conversations turn to arguments because of misinterpretation”. The majority of students I talked with expressed that the less we see our friends and loved ones, the more isolated we begin to feel.
Not only has coronavirus fractured many students’ relationships, but it’s completely disrupted the plans students had for this coming summer. Camp, summer jobs, travelling abroad, competitions, sports events, volunteer work, you name it Corona took it.
A majority of the students who had these plans were relying on them for their post-secondary pathways. Yes, even students who aren’t graduating this year. These plans were experiences to add to resumes or university applications, and even jobs to help save up for post-secondary education expenses. Many Grade 11 students were relying on Grade 12 courses they were reaching ahead with, and many Grade 12 students are missing out on greater preparation for their post-secondary pathways. Even the more minor aspects, such as prom and graduation, have left many graduating students feeling that their high school experience, particularly their last and most valuable year, is being robbed from them.
Without school or the ability to leave our houses to see friends, this quarantine has called for more family time than we’re used to. More than half of the students who noticed a difference in their home life stated that their household’s irritability has increased. Tensions between family members tend to increase during stressful times, especially for households that have lost a source of income via work. The students that struggle the most are those who don’t have very healthy relationships with their families. They struggle to find privacy and alone time. For many students, school is a safe space and a break from home life, and, without it, numerous students feel frustrated and lonely.
As difficult as it may be, it’s important to stay positive and keep yourself busy. I think I can safely say that just about everyone misses regular life, and that’s why it’s so important to limit the aspects of our lives that COVID-19 affects. Go for a walk or run and get some fresh air, but keep that 6-foot distance. If the government stops letting us out of our houses, go on your balcony or out to your backyard and run some laps. Some French guy ran a marathon on his balcony, try that one out and tell me how it goes. Do all those activities you thought of doing during quarantine. Start baking, try out a recipe for dinner, watch that TV show, create some art, play Minecraft, read a book you actually have an interest in, pick up a new hobby like cross-stitching, work out, have some tea cause that stuff bops, I swear the possibilities are endless.
Most importantly, call your friends and family. Just as High School Musical said, we’re all in this together, and we need to support each other during a time that can be so draining on our mental health. It’s difficult to help our loved ones when we aren’t there in person, but it means a lot to pick up the phone and call someone.
If school starts up, online or not, don’t throw everything you’ve been doing out of the window. Continue baking, or going for runs, or calling people, or playing Minecraft. If we start doing school online, we still won’t be seeing people in person, so keeping yourself busy while we’re missing out on socializing is important. I think I’ve said staying busy is important 3 times now. Want to hear it for a fourth?
We won’t be given this time to sit around and do nothing ever again. It may be draining on our mental health but if we take advantage of it properly, it can become a refreshing and perfect place to take a breather, collect ourselves, and start off on the right foot this time. It’s like New Year’s Eve 2.0; don’t let it go to waste.