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Quarantine, the Endless Groundhog Day That Shaped a Generation: Days as Empty as the Grocery Store

Updated: Apr 16

By: Emma Dognin


            Friday March 13th, 2020, was the last day before a portal to worldwide pandemic opened. School was closed for what was meant to be at most two weeks but became the whole rest of the year. The deadly virus no one knew how to cure spread quickly. People prepared for a doomsday; we would go to the grocery store and find shelves practically raided, completely empty. All social interactions were confined to the square box of Zoom, and many of us felt like hostages in our own homes. We entered a world behind the mask, where we had to learn to read peoples’ eyes because we couldn’t see any other parts of their face. If we got sick, we had to get tested and wait for fifteen minutes in agonizing anticipation, hoping that both lines of the test would not appear. Our childhoods were cut short, people were laid off, and mental health problems surged. We were told it may never be normal again and we had to accept a “new normal."

Fortunately, as we pass the four-year mark, we finally reached a point close to how life was before. This all begs the question, how can something as life defining as a global pandemic change the life of people now?

I interviewed a few students who were in grades 5-8 when the pandemic first happened. Most students felt excited with the initial shut down, but they came to realize it was not just a quick break from school. Senior Eva Mandelbaum was in 8th grade when the pandemic started and said, “I feel like I was young, I didn’t fully realize or understand the extent of what was going on. I initially was excited… but when I learned that school would be cancelled for the rest of the year, I was really upset…I never got a proper closure/a graduation from middle school,” she said.  

Students overall described how lack of social interactions caused them to feel disconnected from their friends. Freshman Gavin Espinal discussed how it ended some of his friendships because they stopped communicating.

Junior Lance Anthony described how he felt: “As months went by it was a lot of isolation…I also missed everybody…we were just stuck in our rooms and there was only so much you could do. The pandemic did place a lot of emphasis on social media, because that was really our main outlet. Our generation was already very reliant on social media, but I think social media use after the pandemic just spiked…although social media has its negative impacts, through the pandemic I became friends with people all across the world,” he said.

Another junior, Sydney Brumberg described how she stayed in contact with her friends: “I remember just Facetiming and calling my friends a lot or going on bike rides as much as possible to keep in contact with people,” she said.

Students all shared unique memories of the beginning of the pandemic. Lance Anthony recalled that a performance of "Into the Woods" he was meant to perform in was cancelled. “I remember it was closing night of a show I was in. I got to perform one performance, but my other performance got cancelled,” he said.

Another student, sophomore Eliana Lieber discussed a family memory, “My grandma has an apartment near us, and I remember going and she would give us stuff off the balcony,” she said.

Sophomore Alejandro Reluzco said the pandemic increased his closeness with his siblings. “Since there was nobody else to talk to, I ended up hanging out with my brothers a lot. We played a lot of chess and basketball,” he said.

Eva Mandelbaum discussed playing board games with her family and creating schedules for herself.

Online learning stirred mixed feelings in students, while it caused some students to work harder, others stopped working as hard. Eva Mandelbaum said, “If I could describe online learning in one word, it would be strange. I hated having my camera on, but I hated having it off. I was constantly anxious during Zoom classes. It would take a lot out of me to participate, since I’d worry that I’d sound or look weird on Zoom or that my connection would be bad. But I also felt awful for the teachers who had to talk to a bunch of black boxes, since most people didn’t turn their cameras on. As an introvert, I had always struggled with participating, but online learning made it even harder for me,” she said.

Another student had a different perspective. “I actually did very well with virtual learning, I would sit on my computer and get my work done…I could do some of my work then go for a bike ride, and I could get up late. It wouldn’t matter when I do my work, which I think really suits my learning style,” said Eliana Lieber.

Other students procrastinated more with Zoom, “It was a universal thing that all of us were just tired,” said Lance Anthony. “It was so hard to separate home from school life and the fact I could be on Zoom and in bed at the same time." Sydney Brumberg agreed. "It seemed a lot less serious, and I felt like I didn’t have to try as hard to do well.  

Students had primarily negative views on quarantine, “It was like reliving the same boring day over and over,” said Alejandro Reluzco. Students also experienced increased anxiety towards germs. “I remember when we were allowed to take our masks off in gym…I was very anxious about that, even later I wore my mask,” said Eliana Lieber.

Overall, now students are all grateful to be back to normal. “I felt awful for the seniors during the pandemic while watching my sister go through an abnormal/virtual senior year filled with uncertainty, so I mainly just feel so lucky and appreciative of getting to experience a true, normal senior year,” said Eva Mandelbaum.

Students mourn the lost time, but are glad to have moved on. However, the collective agreement that we are past this era of our lives is a comfort to many.  

Photo credit: "COVID-19 Vaccine Record Card and Mask" by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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