The words below are those of a real teen, with who’s permission and that of her parents, I share with you. I believe this teen articulates so many of the emotions and complex dynamics that the COVID 19 and other events of 2020 have created in the minds and hearts of teens.
“You don’t understand. You have no clue what I am going through. You don’t know what it is like.” Lately, this is the conversation that every kid is telling their parents in a fight. Yelling, screaming at their parents because they are living in a world where they cannot be themselves. But what the kid does not understand is that their parents went through the same feelings and pressures as they did as a teen in high school. But that was a time then. This is now. This is a generation that kids live their lives on social media wanting what other people have. Wanting to fit in, be popular. Wanting their pains to go away. Most of the problems we face today are none of the problems our parents faced back then. But again, they do not understand that. Because it’s not what they went through. But they are trying to help us, to relate to us. But we do not want to see that.
On March 13 , 2020, the world we live in went into lockdown. It was a time of question.
A time where no one knew where to look or what to think. It was new and sometimes new can be terrifying. That of which the next 4 months were. Imagine someone telling you that you cannot go outside to see your friend. Someone telling you that you cannot go see your family. Well obviously, that is what we lived through and are still living through. It has been exactly 8 months since that day today. The date is November 13th and today, our school just closed again to go back into virtual learning. Great! Today I called my dad and told him, “I’m scared. I don’t know what I’m thinking. Because last time this happened, it ruined me.” We were on that call for 10 minutes. Talking about what is happening. He told me not think ahead on what will happen. To talk to him or mom every time I have a good day or bad one. He told me to let them in when I feel stuck or my anxiety gets to me. And it made me feel better, for the moment. After that, a flood of emotion filled me, and I started crying. Crying because I know what to expect this time. Not like last time when I thought we had a free 2 weeks off. 2 weeks that later turned into the rest of the year.
I am scared because during those months off, during the whole month of May, I was depressed. It’s hard to say that and tell people because I do not like to show sad emotions and let people in. I cried everyday for a week because my life was a living hell. I didn’t want to get out of bed and my thoughts were all of, “next week and the weeks after that are going to be the same thing- nothing.” Even though my parents were going through the same nothing, it felt like they didn’t know what I was going through. And to a certain point, they didn’t. High school kids live their lives with friends going to parties, breaking curfew, living life and making mistakes. But I couldn’t even see a friend. I couldn’t make those mistakes. My family was the only thing I had. And those months of family time made us grow closer. Closer as a family who was soon to lose that time together.
Because in August, our family separated as my brother went off to college at LSU. Losing your only sibling to college was part of the depression because he was like a best friend during the time away. We talked every night until the day of moving. And then I was alone. Alone in my house and the next 2 years after that. Still, I walk in his room, sit on the bed and think of him. I wait for him to get home at night to turn off the hallway light until I get up and turn it off myself. He knew what I was going through. He was going through the same thing as me and he knew what I was feeling. Another teenager to feel what I was feeling and to go through it together. It was a relief sometimes. But I still felt alone.
When I went back to school in August, “A day” (because we were on a hybrid schedule), It was good. It was a good feeling. That smile never left my face that week. I thought to myself, “Now this is awesome. This is gonna be great. I am done and back to normal. Let’s go.” But it wasn’t normal. I walked in and I could not see anyone. I mean their bodies were all around me, but I couldn’t see their faces because everyone was wearing a mask. I couldn’t talk to anyone because we couldn’t linger around in the mall and talk like we used to. I couldn’t eat lunch with my friends or get within 6 feet. But hey, it was a start. But that really wasn’t what was bothering me through that and still today.
It was the constant fussing and telling us that we can’t be together. Our lovely administration and teachers. They are just trying to help and make school normal as my parents would say. As a student, I didn’t want to hear every day, “6 FEET. No loitering. Put your mask over your nose now.” It was a constant thing every day. And I know that they are just trying to keep us safe, but we know. We can’t be near each other. And our teachers would say, I’m sorry you’re going through this, and I’m here to talk if any of you need. But they don’t know what we are going through either. When their students walk into school and in the classroom, I’m sure that none of them know that almost every student that just walked through those doors is suffering. But we are behind a mask, literally though. They cannot see our faces and inside. But we sure do a heck of a job not showing what we feel. Because we don’t want anyone to know or feel bad for us. I don’t know why, it’s just the way we feel.
Every school function and fun thing that was supposed to happen didn’t. It has sucked not being able to be in high school normally. But every day, we still try to keep hope. That bit of hope is what gets me through every day. But now that I cannot be at school again, I see that hope fading away even though I don’t want it to. It is something I cannot control, and I fear that depression is on the way. I cannot be in control over this nor can anyone else, but this feeling has chills spreading throughout my body. No matter how many times I pray, nothing seems to be answered. Is there something wrong with me? Is there something I am doing wrong? I want to live a normal life. High School is about being with friends, making mistakes. But if I am at home 24/7, how am I supposed to be normal. How am I supposed to be normal and feel good about myself when I am under a mask? Who knows how long this will go on? Well, I guess I have to get back to virtual learning now. But I’ll have plenty of time to put my thoughts into words for the next 2 weeks.
So, stay tuned. And remember, if we say nothing’s wrong, something is. Keep prying at us. We want you to be concerned. Struggling is normal for teens, remember your time being in high school. Wasn’t so perfect either huh?