Teenagers in a Global Pandemic

May 10th, 2020
What is something that teenagers are facing during this pandemic that people are not talking about and what are some ways we can alleviate these issues?

Oh, Brooke.. Where do I begin?

Teenagers already go through so much shit and it doesn’t help that the pandemic is just adding more shit to the shit we already have to deal with. Please excuse my language. But it's true. Do you realize what a teenager has to go through today? Stress, anxiety, depression, addiction. It's funny because before the pandemic these things were never talked about and at the rare times when they were brought up, it was always to judge. And now, when we are in quarantine, we are forced to face all these problems but alone. And are people acknowledging this? No. The virus is affecting our mental health and its funny that we as a society look past this—again. 

 

For me, I have felt so alone and so lost in my own head. I am the type of person who feeds off peoples' energy around me. I know that sounds a little weird but you know me; I lean on my friends when things get rough and days are bad. For once, I feel like I have to face the thoughts I have been avoiding. I spend hours lost in thought. I’m questioning the decisions I made in the past, stressing about college and my future, and taking my anger out in all the bad ways. I feel like I’m constantly trying to find a moment to breathe, but my anxiety always catches up to me. Am I good enough? Why do I look like this? Why did I do this that one day? Why am I not good enough? These questions are so loud in my head, clouding every positive thought. And I realize that I’m alone. We’re all just alone. I'm feeling tired of waking up to the same routine. I'm really trying here Brooke, it's hard to be motivated when you're alone. When you feel this alone, it's hard to really do anything, there's nothing to look forward to. The pandemic is affecting me pretty badly. I'm not saying that before the pandemic, I had my shit together. I'm just saying I was more stable than I am right now. Now I have to really deal with every emotion and have to face every thought that I have known to just push down. 

 

I'm really trying to keep myself together, but the most stressful thing for me and I know thousands of juniors too, is my future and more specifically college. Ever since the virus, I have wondered what school is gonna be like when we get back, and with all the standardized tests being pushed back and cancelled, it's putting extra pressure on me. I just have been doing so much and overwhelming myself with things to do to keep myself on top of the game, if you know what I mean. I’m just so tired and am losing a lot of confidence in myself during this time. I’m really close to giving up all my hard work. Wow. I'm really exposing myself here. I have been trying my best to be as productive as i can be during quarantine but sometimes I feel like my best is never enough. I feel like I'll never satisfy my expectations for myself and from other people. Quarantine has made me realize how harsh I am on myself, but I don't really know what I can do about that. I don’t know how to alleviate any of the issues I feel, but I can tell you that I’ve been drowning myself in work and getting barely any sleep to avoid my thoughts. Haha—any suggestions?

- Shaira Busnawi

Standardized tests and sad prom queens are the two angles that the media is looking at teenagers through right now. While the SAT and prom are monumental events in a high schooler’s life, they are not the most important and most impactful battles that students are fighting (and on the losing end of) during this pandemic. It’s only natural that teenagers chart out a desired course for our lives, and keep recharting it as we are tossed to and fro by the waves. However, this pandemic has launched us further off course than ever before. 

 

For me, personally, I’ve been faced with the idea of death more than I ever have in my entire life. I’ve been lucky enough that most of my family is still alive, with the exception of my uncle (who passed away when I was too young to really know him) and my great-uncle, who I didn’t visit very often. I haven’t really thought about the gravity of death before now. There was a stretch of time during quarantine where I woke up with a strange, lingering premonition that I was going to die. I bottled everything up until one night, I couldn’t take it any longer and cried for a few hours. So many people were dying. I could die today. Every time I get in a car I could die. Just like that. No one expects it… I certainly didn’t until this quarantine. It became all I could think about. As a Christian, I don’t really fear death itself, but I just feel so young and I feel like I still have so much to give—my heart grieves for everyone perishing from the coronavirus who still want to hold on to their relationships and lives in this crazy world.

Apart from that, as I wrestled with the heavy cloud of death hanging over absolutely everything and smothering futures, I began thinking about the possibilities of my own future, and they became much more precious to me. 

 

I think that teens are being forced to think about their futures much more than usual, since that’s all we can do right now—meditating on the present too much only weighs us down. Our lives flipped upside down in an instant, and we’re all scared that our plans for the future will, too. 

 

To alleviate the fears, uncertainty, and realness of death, teenagers should be interacting with friends as much as possible and living in the moment. While “the moment” isn’t what many wish it would be, I am finding so much to love that way—talking to my relatives on the phone more, spending time with my family, and so much more. Keeping a gratitude journal also helps ground me when I’m spiraling into fears about the present and the future. Know you are blessed to have the internet to read this right now. On the flipside, don’t squash all of your fears with a false face. If you don’t have it all together, you don’t have to pretend—none of us do. Talk to people close to you about your fears before they intensify. Trust me. It’s hard, but it’s even harder to deal with a volcanic eruption of repressed emotions. You’ll find it freeing. That’s why we’re writing this here! 

- Brooke Johnston

Woah. Shit bro, I never really thought of death. I think I’m too scared to think about death so I just don’t. Death has always been a fear of mine and losing the people hurts too much to think about. But I get it. The pandemic is so depressing and sad, if you think about death is all around us. It is so sad to read about everyone dying from the virus. It’s sadder to think that people are not taking it seriously. I’m not ready die, and just like you, I believe I'm too young to die. I mean, I haven't even really started my life. We have a whole future ahead of us. The quarantine definitely makes me realize that I can die today, tomorrow, whenever. The thought of dying when you haven’t experienced life is scary. The future is so uncertain and teens are being forced to only think about that, I get you Brooke. Do you know what self-actualization is? In theory, it's the highest level of development in a person’s life where they feel fulfilled and satisfied with doing all they were capable of. We have most definitely not reached that stage yet. We are still figuring out who we are, what love is, what we wanna do with our lives. The virus is scary because now it feels like we have to rush and figure all this out because you never know when death is knocking on your door next.

 

I’m proud of you though. This isn’t something that I usually think about or would even consider talking about. The scary truth is, death is going to catch up to us one day, we don’t know when so let's try to not let death control and hold us back from life. It's good to acknowledge it and it's normal to feel like a cloud of death is above you, but what good is it to think about something you can’t control? Brooke, keep doing what you are doing and take control of how you want to live your life. Don't let death weigh you down, you have yet to take on the world. So here’s a big screw you death! Nice try, but we aren’t going to let you hold us back. We have everything to live for, so let's make the most of time we have now.

 

And lastly, to add on to what Brooke said, here's a bit of  advice to everyone reading this: do not bury your feelings and hide your thoughts. Let them sink in. I know it hurts but sometimes it good to let it all out. It's ok to not be ok. 

- Shaira Busnawi

YESSSSSS SHAIRA that is perfect. PERFECT. It’s really stressful wondering about whether or not you’re going to “live” your life or not. And thinking about the people you love… even more stressful. 

AH Self-actualization—the psychology nerd inside me is screaming. We only get one shot on this Earth and it’s terrifying to think that a force outside of your control could snatch it away from you. However, living in this fear takes away from living the life we dream of living! In order to get to the top of the pyramid, self-actualization, we need to first fulfill physiological, safety, love, and esteem needs. I’m so blessed to even have the opportunity to advance through the pyramid; so many people around the world, like refugees, would love to even fulfill the bottom level. 

 

Who do you recommend readers talk to if they’re feeling scared in any way about the pandemic? Or feeling fearful, guilty, or hopeless about anything? Reader, you may feel it would be hard to talk to someone, even the person you’re closest to. If you feel you can’t talk to anyone, or want to warm up to it, please email us at yourhiraeth@gmail.com. Trust me—we’re super down to talk. Especially since we’re lonely in quarantine. On another note, This pandemic has also really brought out the racist side of people… Have you witnessed any xenophobia during this time, Shai? One of our Asian friends, even long before quarantine, was walking down the street and minding his own business when he locked eyes with a white woman who, in turn, walked as far away as possible and covered her mouth. There have been innumerable terrible atrocities done to innocent people during this time. It’s so awful. I can only imagine the fear that Asian teens must be feeling across the globe. 

- Brooke Johnston

 


 

You are sooo right about that Brooke. We should all appreciate the gift of life and the fact that we can even advance to self-actualization. Not everyone gets a chance at life like we do and for that we should be very grateful and live our life to the fullest. 

 

I know it may seem hard to reach out to people when you feel scared or lonely, and it’s ok if you prefer to not open up to anyone. But remember, don’t hold your emotions in. It’s worse that way, trust me. When you push your feelings down and turn your back on what you are experiencing, that's when things get worse. Find an escape, find positive ways to release your emotions. For me that’s reading philosophy books, writing in the journal, or going on a long run while listening to my favorite person. Take a minute every hour just to catch your breath and clear your mind. Sometimes the best way to feel better is to take a step back from reality. But if you want to talk but feel like you have no one to come to, email us. We are all ears and no judgement. We get it, sometimes all we need is for someone to listen. 

 

Oh and about xenophobia—I’ll save that for another journal. I’m about to go off.

- Shaira Busnawi

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If you need someone to listen, we're always here at yourhiraeth@gmail.com