Acknowledging the loss and growth caused by quarantine

The Wolf Staff

We hate to appear as a newspaper staff that centers itself around such an overused topic: Coronavirus. But as quarantine persists and the word itself has been rewritten countless times, students can’t help but focus on the question that has left, quite literally, the entire world on a cliffhanger. So we hold our breath and cling to estimations of when our normal will return, anything to dull the anxiety of being stuck at home for much longer. “A couple of months,” the district tells its apprehensive students. But a couple of months turn into more months, and soon, we see the things we love most slip away. 

For some, the thrill of sports has reached a pause, while others long for school dances and the comfort of socializing. Many students feel the weight of online school bearing down on their shoulders, heavy expectations alongside a foreign learning system proving too much for them. Our world as we knew it has crumbled, leaving us to navigate our lives through the rubble. We feel stuck, many of our hobbies and pastimes put on hold as the world keeps spinning and we watch time pass us by. In a society that’s always moving forward, we as a community have stopped. 

We never asked for this standstill, yet here we are, surrounded by time to think, reflect and, as we all do, grow. Because growth is human nature. We recognize our faults and mistakes and make a conscious decision to change for the better. And we have all changed over this unwanted time spent in quarantine, as is expected when left without distraction. The buzz and laughter that used to consume our thoughts has run dry, leaving a silence that feels unfamiliar…unsettling. See, the funny thing about humans is that we don’t like silence. It leaves too much room for reflection, which at some point, is bound to get ugly. But, like all things that have come out of this pandemic, we don’t have a choice.

At the start of our quarantine, we indulged in silence, even enjoying what we expected to be a short break from reality. It didn’t take long for us to nearly drive ourselves mad from the boredom: trying new recipes, going on family walks, binge-watching Netflix, finally committing to a work out routine and doing anything to fill the absence of what was once our social life with the resources left at our disposal. Perhaps these distractions weren’t fulfilling, but anything is better than the alternative—pure silence. 

We can’t say, in full honesty, that this period of time didn’t have its ups and downs. For every second spent missing friends and lounging around shopping malls for the fun of it, there was an opportunity for self-betterment and, more importantly, self-care. We tried out new hairstyles, different aesthetics, listened to fresh music and ultimately realized that without the pressure of going to school the next morning, we had a lot more courage. Perhaps this points to a harmful culture surrounding collectivism in high school, but for some time, we were freed of it. There were no worries about keeping up with the latest trend or fitting into the standards that our generation built. We were able to be authentically and unapologetically ourselves. And from that, there was a cultural shift. Students scrolled through Instagram feeds wondering why everyone they thought they knew so well was suddenly dressing differently, voicing views they never knew they had, why people who aren’t known for being bold suddenly began declaring their truths. “Followers,” they were labeled. But, perhaps, everybody was being their true selves for the first time in a long time. We were somewhat content with our temporary distractions, not enjoying the silence, but rather becoming accustomed to it. But time dragged on, as time does, and an epidemic of distractions slowed, leading us to the second stage of quarantine: Sound. 

Though we didn’t ask for the quiet that accompanies quarantine, the silence allowed us to finally hear the cries of people that have been tuned out for far too long. We weren’t allowed the privilege to turn away and play “busy” when faced with inequality. There was no party next Friday or brunch date at noon to distract us from adversity. We listened because the melody of our world had stopped. For many of us, it took the slowing of our personal lives to hear the deafening demands of justice, leaving us questioning how we had never heard it before. Was this an original tune? No, just a neglected one. Because truthfully, this movement for racial equality resembled that of a broken record, repeating itself historically, in dire need of attention, yet ignored religiously. Our generation could no longer look the other way. It was time for action. We came together and did what we could to fix a system that should never have been oppressive in the first place. We mourned for lives lost at the hands of police and fought for laws that would prevent this senseless pattern from continuing. We learned that to not be racist is not enough. We called out our friends, educated our families and, arguably the hardest feat, we held ourselves accountable. The push cannot end here, of course, for the fight is ongoing. Silence gave us the ability to listen, but it is now our job to respond accordingly to what we’ve heard. The quiet is destined to end as we return to our norms and the comforting sound of our lives resumes, but we as a community must learn to listen to more than one thing at a time. For once, we must learn to not let our personal agendas drown out the needs of others. 

Fast forward to now: We’ve been asked to return to lockdown as cases in Washington County, our community, skyrocket. The guidelines may be more forgiving than what we’ve seen before, but once again, we’re asked to sideline our freedom for the sake of keeping loved ones safe. A large ask for even larger stakes. We are presented with this new, refined version of “quarantining,” and what’s to come is unknown. Truly, the year 2020 has been unpredictable, leaving us only to guess what obstacle will be thrown at us next. Of course we fear what is to come. Months of isolation, uncertainty and a lingering worry for the health of our loved ones is enough to dampen anyone’s spirits. As if these concerns aren’t enough, our big question remains unanswered. When will the pandemic end? When will our lives return to normal? 

There is no way to know. What we do know is what we’ve seen, and in this case, what we’ve heard. We now know that individuality speaks louder than trends and, at the risk of sounding cheesy, we must continue to be ourselves. We’ve learned that inequality is all around us; we just need to make an effort to listen. It’s only natural to look at what we’ve lost and make “quarantine” a dirty word. But we can’t acknowledge our collective loss without too appreciating our growth. We may not know what’s to come, but whatever it may be, it’s our decision to either focus on the darkness or anticipate the light that is bound to come from it.