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The toll Covid has taken on teens like me

My life has changed so much since February earlier this year. Only nine months ago I was an ocean away in Israel on a school trip with my eighth grade classmates having a blast. We were all pretty excited and were trying to make as many good memories as we could during our last year together before we graduated in June.

After my grade went back to America, a few of my classmates and I stayed with relatives who lived in Israel. The night I was getting ready to head to the airport to return home, my aunt started asking me countless questions like, “where did you travel to with your class?” “Where did you stay?” “Can I see your class’ travel schedule from the week of your trip?” None of the questions made sense to me until she asked me a question that made her ultimate goal clear as day: “Did you happen to see or come close to an Asian tour group?”

While our grade had been in Israel on our trip, a Korean group had been traveling in Israel too, and one of the tourists tested positive for Covid. As soon as I got to the airport, I met up with my classmates who had also stayed an extra week and asked them if they knew about the whole Covid situation, and they told me they had. 12 hours later we landed at Dulles, and reunited with our families who told us that we hadn’t overlapped routes with the tourist group that had the Covid case, and I immediately felt a rush of relief, glad that we had gotten away from Covid — at least that’s what I thought.

We resumed our everyday lives, but two weeks later the school announced that we were going virtual for what they thought would be a month or two. Little did we know that those two weeks were going to be our last together as a grade. We graduated virtually, which was very disappointing for all of us who were busy discussing how we were going to end the year off with a bang as the first graduating eighth grade class (the school had only recently added a middle school). My classmates and I are now all spread out at different high schools feeling like something is missing from our lives.

Looking back on it, I would have made the most out of every second I had in those weeks. Earlier this year, I would’ve been riding my bike to school on weekdays and hangout with friends on the weekends; now, I click a link to get to class and only see my friends on the other side of a screen. This has really made people like me realize that we had been taking “normal” for granted. Before Covid, I would have never thought about how amazing it truly felt to be with friends and other human beings. Of course I thought it was great to be with friends and do things that anybody else would normally do but I never really appreciated my ability to do normal things.

After nine months of being in quarantine, my mental state has changed and my desire for that “normal” feeling has increased dramatically. I think that the worst part about this whole thing (aside from the fact that so many people are dying everyday) is that 2020 is happening right smack in the middle of my teenage years. I would much rather be hanging out with friends, doing stupid things with them, and be around other people. Covid-19 has taken a huge toll on teens like me. We are in the years that we have seen in the movies and books (and possibly siblings and parents) that are described to us as being the best most eventful years of our lives. Teens like me are supposed to start figuring out what we like and don’t like, what we value, how to contribute and be a productive member of society, and who we are as individuals. Instead we are stuck at home waiting patiently (or not cause I know some of you are probably going insane right now while reading this) for Covid to be contained and defeated, and for the nation and the world to open up its doors again.

Meir Stein is a ninth grade student at the Field School in Washington, D.C.

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