By Nora Abdelfattah, Student at South Brunswick HS, Member of the Coalition for Healthy Communities and Incorruptable.US
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been one of the most bizarre unique experiences of my life. For the first time in my 16 years of living, this fast-paced, ever-moving, ever-changing world seems to be standing still. Even two weeks into quarantine, it seems impossible to believe. It's like something straight out of a science fiction novel. Everything in my life seems paused, yet the world is still finding ways to move forward.
Take Down Tobacco Day, an anti-nicotine event my school's Incorruptible.US group was supposed to participate in, turned into an online social media campaign with hundreds of people across the country posting why they #TakeDownTobacco. My friends, who I normally chat with in the morning before classes start, have kept in contact with me via daily video calls in their free time. My schoolwork, which my everyday life revolves around, is being completed and submitted online through resources like Google Classroom or Turnitin. At this point, all I have to say is thank god for 21st century technology.
Despite all that's been happening, my peers and I are able to continue to live a semi-normal life of productivity and social interaction. Although, I really do miss my friends, my teachers, and my school. I just wish I'd gotten more of a chance to say goodbye to them. The entire thing was unexpected. Tuesday, March 10th, during third period, my Public Speaking teacher was telling us all that it was "highly unlikely" our school would do remote learning. Wednesday, March 11th, at 5 AM, my dad woke me up to tell me my school had closed.
It all still feels so unreal. But slowly, that "unrealness" is starting to become a reality. I guess I've finally gotten used to it. With time, I hope, all of us will have gotten used to this weird new normal. Personally, I've been trying to remain productive and occupied, even though I can't leave the house.
The first day we were off, I reorganized my entire room. I knew I was going to be spending a lot more time there in the upcoming weeks, and I wanted it to stay as engaging and motivating as possible. I've also taken up a couple of hobbies, specifically animating and free writing. I remember saying at the beginning of 9th grade that I wanted to publish a novel by the time I graduated. Finally, I have the opportunity to start pursuing it. I do my best to stay on top of my work, and to avoid wasting too much time. Time is a rare and precious thing, and despite the circumstances, I want to spend what time I have now in productive ways. I encourage you to do the same. Spend time doing the things that you love. Take a moment to be with your family. Exercises a bit. Read a book. Pick up a new skill. I know a lot of us are still stressed out from everyday life. But if you do have the time, use it to take care of yourself. You are the most important thing, and in times like this, it's essential to maintain good health and well being.
This entire situation has also given me some time to think about the future - my future, my school's future, the world's future. This devastating pandemic will end. Be it in a week, a month, or a year, it will end. And when it does, things will go back to normal. Or will they? Never has the world experienced something like this before. Is it possible this situation, once over, will convince the world to finally put aside its differences? To unite? To come together against sickness, war, pain, and everything ailing this world?
We will, at the very least, know how to handle this situation should it ever happen again. Perhaps it would have strengthened community and international relationships alike. Maybe by the time it's over, we would have developed amazing new technology to implement into our lives once it's over. Maybe the world will be a better place once this is all over. Or maybe it'll be just the same. This whole experience has shown just how crazy and chaotic, yet wonderful and peaceful the world can be. There is no telling what will happen in the future, and beyond.
Until then, I hope you and your families and friends keep safe. Take care of yourselves, and be sure to stay healthy and happy. Remember that you are amazing and wonderful in your own unique way.