Teenagers in coronavirus quarantine – opinion

Since the lockdown, I’ve found myself spending hours at home feeling aimless and unmotivated, but mostly afraid.

SOCIAL DISTANCING, but what to do at home? (photo credit: REUTERS)
SOCIAL DISTANCING, but what to do at home?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last week, hours before the Health Ministry announced that the country was going under lockdown, my friends and I discussed the exciting plans we would make if we were given a month off school. We pictured waking up late, going out to malls and restaurants, and celebrating our vacation in town or on the beach. I remained under the naive delusion that the coronavirus pandemic would have little effect on my daily life. However, reality since the announcement of our state of emergency has been far from this fantasy.
By Friday, the streets were all but empty except for people rushing to the grocery store. Jerusalem’s Park Hamesilah, usually bustling with runners, cyclists and children, was deserted. I’ve grown accustomed to the capital’s lively atmosphere. Seeing it this way made me uneasy. So many small pieces of normal life were out of place. Many of my friends were placed under quarantine, people were stockpiling essentials, and events such as my school’s Poland trip, weddings and bar mitzvah celebrations were cancelled. My family encouraged me to avoid public places and large groups, and I’ve made an effort not to ride buses. Since then, the Health Ministry has forbidden anyone in at risk groups from leaving their home, and everyone else has been barred from going out unless absolutely necessary.
Since the lockdown, I’ve found myself spending hours at home feeling aimless and unmotivated, but mostly afraid. To combat this, I’m trying to stay occupied. During my first days at home, I went running, on bike rides, and on walks to my friends’ houses – all of which I can no longer do. My peers share my sentiment of restlessness. Some of my friends have begun babysitting regularly, and one of them even started a small daycare in her home. Links for different coronavirus relief volunteering group chats have been sent around on WhatsApp, the majority of which have since been cancelled for the sake of social distancing.
With face to face contact limited, teenagers have taken to the Internet to stay in touch. With the help of social media, teenagers have been able to use comedy as a method to cope with their emotions through memes. For those in quarantine, video chatting apps such as Skype and Zoom have kept them in touch with family, friends and teachers. In my school, the Shalom Hartman Institute, my teachers have utilized Zoom to teach lessons over the internet.
Even before the nation entered this lockdown, my parents discouraged me from physical contact. Hugs and high fives were swiftly replaced by elbow bumping and a greeting dubbed the “Wuhan Shake,” also known as the “footshake.” Amid the overwhelming mania, many crave connection more than ever. It’s more vital now than ever that every rejected hug and every dodged contact be replaced with emotional connection. In the era of technology, we have no excuse not to reach out to check in on our friends and family.
While I consider myself level-headed and pragmatic, the uncharted territory of this pandemic has made me anxious. With no clear picture of how the rest of the year will look, I’ve been doing my best to take these changes day by day. Instead of worrying about what I may not be able to do tomorrow, I try to focus on what I can do today and on how vigilantly the situation is being handled by governmental authorities. Although the headlines are negative, I keep an eye out for the good news: the drop in global carbon emissions, the crystal clear Venice canals and quarantined Italians singing together from their balconies. Despite my concerns, I’ve remained optimistic.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused more damage than I had anticipated, since it’s left us both physically and emotionally vulnerable. With this in mind, we must take comfort in the knowledge that we are taking every precaution. While this month and perhaps coming months are far from the vacation my friends and I imagined, hopefully, we will leave this situation stronger, closer, and better prepared for the future.
Maya Resnick is spending the year in Israel with her family. She is in Gr. 11 at Hartman Girls School in Jerusalem.