This op-ed story was produced during the Fall 2020 Youth Voice Workshop.
I remember when it began. I was sitting with my mom explaining why I wanted to quit the school musical. Suddenly her phone rang. She picked it up and put it on speaker. We listened to my principal’s automated voice, saying that school would be canceled for at least the next two weeks because of COVID-19.
At first, I was so excited. No school. No homework. All my friends were texting me, asking to hang out. If only we knew what the next 10 months would be like.
The next day I arrived at Costco with my dad, surprised by seeing that everyone was wearing masks and gloves. Until then I never thought twice about standing next to people or fully realized how the outbreak was spreading. Not just across the world, but Minnesota as well.
Little did I realize how much the pandemic would change the lives of young adults like myself over the months that followed.
While I am very blessed to have an education, this time has been especially rough for many of us. It feels like the media has forgotten students.
When remote classes resumed in the spring, it seemed like my school had thought of everything. On our homepage, they had links to counselors and other resources.
When school started up after a long summer, much of that had changed. Many of those resources were no longer available. It was like lessons of last year were forgotten. Among the things that were missing were the emphasis on mental health and coping with stress. It feels like we’re just a piece of data, a box to check off every single day.
One of the biggest adjustments was to learn how to classwork at home, a place that had always been a place to relax. The workload assigned to us is unrealistic with the distractions and other demands.
A typical day begins with me sitting down at my Chromebook at 8 a.m. staring at a screen, fighting to focus my attention at the task at hand. At the same time checking on my little sister every five seconds, making sure she’s in her classes and doing her work.
Sitting through classes while there is so much more going on in my head only adds to the stress. By the time the sun has gone down, I’m still staring at my screen, contemplating the assignment that’s in front of me.
Knowing my classes are important for my future and my dream of somebody becoming a pediatrician only adds to the stress.
Now I feel drained. Going over how these past 10 months have made me a different person. I have a lot more responsibility riding on my shoulders. It’s not just my education that I’m responsible for, it’s also that of my younger sister.
I am hopeful that as the pandemic goes on, educators will find a way to help students better address the stress and other mental challenges that come with distance learning.