Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.
This month’s author is 15-year-old Kelly Malone, of Little Silver, a ninth grader at Academy of Allied Health and Sciences. This April, Kelly was awarded an honorable mention for her submission to the Teen Voices contest in the Asbury Park Press. The topic was the quarantine we are all enduring together. Today’s busy families have moved from days full of rushing from activity to activity to spending day after day with one another. Families have been seemingly thrown back in time, learning how to spend days, weeks and months together. Kelly candidly describes what this new lifestyle feels like for a 15-year-old who has gone from classrooms and socializing with friends to seeing her immediate family only. Here is Kelly’s story.
I never thought I would experience what it would feel like to be in jail until my family and I were quarantined together. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Jail is definitely worse than this; it has to be, but right now, it doesn’t really feel like it. Every day follows the same routine: wake up, do homework, eat lunch, work out, find something to fill up my time, eat dinner, shower, sleep – and then do it all over again the next day. I feel like I’m in some weird science-fiction movie where I’m supposed to be able to escape but can’t. Some days are better than others, like when I find something new to do. I am currently learning to drive stick shift. Boredom is a strange thing, and it often leads me to see things in a different way. It made me convert my closet to a small room with a bench and a desk and turn my shed into a lush flower garden. While these two projects may have seemed impractical and unnecessary, they filled my hours and got me excited about something again. We all need something to look forward to, especially at times like these.
Through all of this stress and insanity, I’ve learned a few things about myself and the world while I’m finding things to occupy my time. First, we are not alone. We are coming together (from at least a 6-foot distance) and supporting one another. Everyone feels each other’s pain, and everyone wants to make things better for the people around them. We all know that no one’s situation is the same, but we are still there to support each other day in and day out. Second, each day we make an impact on the world. Within the few months of these restrictions, the world has started to heal itself. The air in China is cleaner and clearer than it has been in a while, and the canals in Italy are teeming with fish. The global greenhouse gas levels have gone down dramatically, and scientists around the world are studying the possible positive effects of all of us staying inside. Imagine the positive effects of a year of us not polluting our environment? Lastly, we take so much for granted every day. When I’m at school, I can’t wait to get home. But now that I’m forced to stay home, all I want is to go back. I want to see my friends, my teachers and attend classes in person. I know that once I go back, I may wish I was home again, but at least for now, I can appreciate the privileges I’ve been given. Not everyone has the opportunity to be educated, and I don’t value my good fortune enough. Our lives may not be perfect, but it can always be worse. I am so thankful for the health of my family, friends, teachers and peers.
I love my family, don’t get me wrong, but quarantining has definitely taught me lessons about them. We all love each other so much, but being around each other 24/7 is difficult. Some peaceful days we all get along really well, but other days we get annoyed with each other and we stay in our separate parts of the house. That may sound like a toxic environment, but getting space from each other has been beneficial to our overall attitude toward one another. Everyone needs their space and private time to just do something alone. Even just coming together to eat dinner at night has been great, although the days seem to be better when I spend a little more than an hour with my family. Another really important thing that I learned about my family is that their lives are a lot more stressful, busy and complicated than I thought they were. I always thought that I had the busiest schedule and the hardest work, but now I am able to see what my sister does at school each day and what my parents have to do for work each day. It is comforting to know that other people feel your pain and understand your stresses.
Finally, I want to stress the importance of staying isolate and what “isolation” means to me. As a 15-year-old with no underlying conditions, I have a slim chance of contracting the virus and suffering serious complications. However, my mom is a Type 1 diabetic. I am not staying inside for my own health, but the health of my mom. Because of her condition, COVID-19 would wreak havoc on her immune system and her body. Stay inside, if not for your sake, for the sake of other’s lives. It is really difficult right now, but in the long run, it will be worth it. It may feel like jail now, but I am blissfully looking forward to finally being free, with the added knowledge that I have gained through this whole time.