by Sebastian Koch

Humans are social beings. We rely on social interaction and, in the same way we need food and water to survive, we need social connectivity. The toll of self-isolation for extended periods has a detrimental effect on the mental state of a person. We must be mindful that isolation is one of the most severe punishments dealt out in prisons. Solitary confinement is often seen as the most brutal form of mental torment and we are now experiencing similar conditions within our own homes due to this pandemic. 

This deprivation of social interaction is perhaps the most interesting impact of the coronavirus crisis, when we consider both its complexity and its evident importance. 

My room has, in the last two weeks, effectively became my bedroom, my classroom, and my gym. I can’t leave the house, and the creeping of loneliness grows more each day. While I have my family to keep me sane, the lack of interaction with others has been difficult. 

It is tiring. I feel an unfamiliar sense of frustration that accompanies this loneliness as there is absolutely nothing I can do about this.  

This powerlessness, combined with the constant threat of overthinking, is extremely taxing on the mind. And of course, as time goes on, it gets worse. This isolation period may go on for months and I can only imagine the level of anxiety and exhaustion each of us will feel after an extended period of limited social interaction. We are being starved of the social food that provides nutrition for the brain. I know I am not the only one who wakes up each morning -- or afternoon -- to know each day is deprived of opportunity. 

The silver lining is that this coronavirus outbreak is ultimately going to help me appreciate, more than ever before, how much I love people. 

When I can finally leave my house and see others again, the rainfall will have finally come to the desert. I cannot wait for the dry wasteland of my mental state to be hydrated once again by the waters of interaction. When this rainfall arrives, my mental state will be revitalized by those around me.


Even the Early Mornings

          by Grace Buckshaw

Generally, kids - especially teenagers - have dreaded going to school every day. But the coronavirus quarantine has caused many students to realize that school is more fun and useful than they give it credit for. 

Going to school and sticking to a routine kept students’ lives balanced and normal. It also allowed kids to see their friends on a daily basis, another part of attending school that students took for granted. 

When I first heard the news that all SHUFSD schools were going to be closed for the week of March 16, I was excited to not have to get up at 6 o’clock each morning, not sit through classes for hours, and have more flexibility turning in homework assignments. 

Then it was announced that schools would be closed for another week. By that point, I was already getting a bit bored and sick of having to stay home. Then schools were closed until April 15 by the Executive Order of Governor Cuomo. Then May 15. 

Now my day consists of my teachers offering up electronic assignments, leaving me to stare at screens. Many students, including me, have found that we actually prefer and do better on tests when they are completed on paper rather than on computers. Moreover, although teachers are doing their best to give their students the resources and lessons they need, online learning is not as interactive or engaging as actually being in the classroom. Even though students can email their teachers if they have any questions, it takes longer and is probably a hassle for teachers to have to read through and respond to so many inquiries and confusions. 

Additionally, I miss my friends. Who knew school was something so many of us actually enjoyed? 

There has also been a lot of discussion amongst teens about missing school on social media, including Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, and other platforms. Numerous posts convey the idea that students miss attending school and actually want to go back. Many students have expressed that they not only miss seeing their close friends, but surprisingly also miss passing by acquaintances in the hallway, seeing their teachers, and engaging in gym class activities; they miss volleyball, basketball, floor hockey, archery. 

Furthermore, high school seniors are missing school events, as they wave goodbye to their proms, and the last months of their high school experience. 

Never did I think I would admit to enjoying waking up before the sun rises, sitting through a 45 minute AP Biology lab, and taking notes as my teacher talked, but this national crisis has demonstrated how much I, and many other students, actually value school. 


Fear Breeds Bigotry 

          by Yenifer Gonzalez Saravia

It is no secret that Hispanic and Black Americans have been struggling against discrimination for much of American history.

Personally, as a Hispanic girl who was not born here,  I’ve experienced my fair share of discrimination, both directly and indirectly. And it’s hard. Imagine going to school and being asked to show your documentation, even if you are here legally. It’s humiliating. It’s degrading. And it’s something that many people have to live with. Black Americans also have to deal with all types of discrimination, including racial profiling and police brutality. 

Fear is what drives people to do reckless things, but so does prejudice. And the coronavirus has certainly generated a toxic level of fear. On March 14th, Jose Gomez attacked an Asian family at a market. It resulted in 3 of the family members being stabbed in the face, one of whom was just 2 years old. Although there is no justification for what was done, there is no doubt that people, especially President Trump’s public naming of COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” set the stage for inordinate prejudice and aggression towards Asians in our country.

In the US, we watch the racism ball bounce around from group to group. Once it was the Irish.  Later, African Americans.  In my lifetime, Hispanics.  And so many in between those markers.  We never seem to be able to successfully work to be closer together. 

Yes, people are afraid.  Nevertheless, now - more than ever - we need to be caring for another and not letting the fear this virus causes be another way to divide us.


Isolated Together

          by Daniel Coppola

Humans are social beings. For a majority of us, our lives rotate around communication and the presence of another person. Whether it be co-workers, classmates, friends, or just a passerby on the street, social interaction is inevitable. 

Until it was ripped away from us. 

With the COVID-19 crisis taking the world by storm, it has brought out a side of humanity that has rarely ever been seen; the human race, which has built itself on interaction, is now being forced to isolate. However, in this time of anxiety, humans are finding a way to connect digitally. While we’re forced to be alone in our houses, we’re able to stay together through technology. 

It’s human nature to be social. We’ve created communinites and a language to communicate and exist with one another. We’ve created art and games as a social feature which adds value to a human life and separates them from animals, yet, this has all been radically changed. A majority of Americans are experiencing a radically different lifestyle than the ones they had a month ago. While we face the reality that we’re alone physically in our homes, the pandemic is making it easier to catch up, as people have more time and they’re also experiencing a social withdrawal where they might not be seeing or talking to as many people. 

Many historians and journalists are comparing this pandemic to 9/11. Of course, 9/11 differs notably in the fact that it was a brutal, shocking attack on the United States by other human beings. However, we see the most similarities in the responses to the tragedy. People are drawn  together, not just in the US, but all around the world. 

After 9/11, nearly 36,000 units of blood were sent to New York City. Today, we see a similar sense of human connective compassion as videos surfacing of citizens in Italy in quarantine, all out together on their balconies, singing and making the most of an otherwise ugly situation.  People are also reaching out to distant relatives and friends, checking on their safety, but also asking for companionship. 

While we may be separated in a time of crisis, it’s our nature to overcome the obstacles we face and come together. That is how we stay human.


I Took It For Granted

          by Caroline Schrama

It can be hard to look around and realize the privileges we’ve been given in this life. 4 weeks ago, if I had known I wouldn't be returning to school until God-knows-when, I would have done so many things differently. 

I would have been happy to wake up at 6:00 am, being able to sit at the top of the 300-wing staircase and finish my coffee, enjoy my 5-minute walk to homeroom, wave to more of my friends, and try harder to stay awake during my first 3 periods of the day. 

I would have told my friends I love them. And even though I may not show it, let my teachers know that I appreciate all they do for me. 

I miss it. I miss school so much. And if I had known that this would be happening, I would not have taken it for granted.

I took advantage of what I was given. And I undervalued it. I hope post-pandemic we continue to appreciate everything we have. I see on social media how people are acknowledging how lucky they were before COVID-19, but will they continue to be grateful once life is back to normal? And what about the appreciation of health care workers and scientists, our jobs, and even being able to go to the grocery store without fear? 

And yet, despite all warnings otherwise, I see people selfishly going out and hanging out with their friends. Do those people realize all that they're taking away from others? I don’t understand how one can go to their friend’s house knowing that they're taking away from someone’s senior year or a visit to see their grandparents. 

Frighteningly, selfishness is one of the many reasons this virus has been able to take so many lives. And I am grateful for those who speak up, who do not hesitate to call out others. This quarantine state has been really eye-opening for me; it is very telling, seeing who is (and is not) actually doing their civil duties.

We’ve assessed our privilege as a society and so many of us have realized how lucky we are. This change in mentality will hopefully endure after the virus has long been contained. However, once the world returns to normalcy, the true colors made apparent by our self-centered peers may require that we reassess our relationships.