Four Teens Share their Experience of Life at Home during the Pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an entirely new set of challenges to collectives and individuals internationally. Many of us are only able to peak into the lives of others via one dimensional social media posts or what they feel comfortable telling us on calls. And while seeing others can be uplifting the worry that you’re missing out can be isolating. I spoke candidly to four Calgarian teens about their new life at home. Their honest answers provide a bit of perspective into the life of others during the pandemic.

Please note some of the following interviews do discuss depression and anxiety.

Kim– 17 year old female

What have you been doing in isolation?

I’ve been catching up on sleep and attempting to create a daily schedule that I could follow. I’ve been eating a lot and I’ve been sleeping until 2 p.m. and sleeping again at 4 a.m. That’s pretty much it.

Have you picked up any new hobbies?

I’ve started drawing on balloons. It’s actually so good, you wanna see?

How is it different being with your family all day?

I feel like there’s really no difference but I’m spending a lot more time with my brother now because he’s my only physical social interaction that I have every day.

Have you cut and/or dyed your hair yet?
Yes I have, I dyed it blue and then I attempted to bleach it and then it didn’t work so I’m going to wait until it grows back.

What have you been watching right now?

I watched the Bee movie today. I’ve also been watching a lot of Barbie and Dolphin Magic because every time I stay up at night I get scared and no one responds to my texts, so I need to find a way to comfort myself. Other than that I’ve been watching really old videos on Youtube. You know those vogue interviews with like 73 questions? I just wanna look into celebrity houses. I’ve also been stalking Anna Wintour because I think I watched the Devil Wears Prada a couple of weeks back and I just really wanted to see if Meryl Streep’s life was actually like Anna’s. Why am I such a stalker? Anyways…

As an Asian-Canadian can you speak any discrimination you have experienced due to Coronavirus?

 After the COVID-19 outbreak, I have been experiencing racism as an Asian in my daily life. When I wear masks for personal safety and the safety of others, I have received many judgmental or questioning looks from people, along with questions that were directly asking me if I had COVID-19, when I was clearly not showing any symptoms of it. This type of racism and discrimination has also continued on social media, with multiple insensitive posts and stories that were directed towards Asians, calling the virus the “Chinese virus”. This is a problem that has not only affected me but also the people around me. Especially earlier on when most Asians chose to wear masks for protection reasons, people were not welcoming of it and had made fun of it instead.

Do you think you’ll change anything about your life after the pandemic?

I’ll probably change my sleep schedule so it fits better with how the sun works. I’ll be forced to because school makes me a day person even though I’m secretly not.

How have you been emotionally and physically impacted by self-isolation?

Other than the times I watch the news my mental health has increased significantly because I’ve been getting all this sleep. I also don’t have to do any of my school work and I don’t have to see any of the toxic people I usually have to see every day. I literally love staying at home. It was my dream to stay home for two weeks without going anywhere so it’s a dream come true.

So you’ve basically just admitted to being a hermit?

Yes but I put that really nicely, you better put that in there.

How has your body image been impacted?

Every time I look at myself in the mirror I see the image of, you know the people who sit around in chairs in Wall-E who can’t walk anymore and stare at screens? That’s the image of me, my future – after the quarantine.

What are your thoughts/feelings on social media at this time?

I’ve really reflected on the importance of it and the amount of impact it has because it’s close to almost the only outlet that youth like myself can still communicate with people and continue to be informed about a lot of things that are going on. Especially because I participate on a lot of different youth councils and committees; most of the work that we’re doing is all on social media so I’m very thankful for the power it holds.

How has your relationship with school changed?

I feel like the biggest difference is I’ve realized that although school is an environment of learning I usually shove all the information that I need for tests in my brain. I only store it in there so that I can spit it out during tests but now that I don’t have anywhere to spit it out I can’t insert it into my brain, if that makes sense. So… because there is no output there is no input and my relationship has changed in that I cannot consume the information just by looking at it. To try and help I’m taking a slower approach at things because I don’t have a time limit or final product to aim for.

What is your go to quarantine meal?

Our house is packed with those tiny Pringle packages, so I’ve been eating a whole bunch of those. I feel like they’re not good for me but very addictive.

What is the biggest stressor in your life while living at home?

Probably the fact that everything’s getting cancelled is kind of stressful because I feel like I’m faced with an uncertain future and I don’t know if things are going to resume or if things are just going to be left as is.

How have you been coping with it?

I’ve just tried to stay informed on what’s happening And I’m trying to just avoid being stressed because I know that it’s not only affecting me but everyone else.

Do you have any regrets coming into this?

I regret going to school for the 1st couple of months for this semester because if I just went to school for 2 weeks and then called in sick for like 4 weeks my marks could’ve stayed at 100 and it wouldn’t have changed.

How’s your outlook on life changed while living at home?

I feel like the only thing that has actually changed for me is I am now more sure of the fact that I’m a very introverted person who values time alone in isolation. I’ve kind of realized that I’ve kind of been forced by society to be outgoing, and always be around people. But sharing energy with people really isn’t necessary for me.

I’ve also learned to value my time, and I feel like once I go back to my normal routine I would find I would use my time more wisely.

What’s the first thing you’ll do when social distancing is done?

Get bubble tea, I’m dying. On Skip the Dishes but the delivery fee is more expensive than the actual bubble tea.

Harrison– 16 year old male

What have you been doing lately?

I have been making new food every day, I’ve been learning to cook and bake which is nice. I’ve honestly lost all motivation to do schoolwork. I’ve been reorganizing my room, and making new clothes, sewing and stuff.

What’s your go to quarantine meal?

Poutine, I’m so happy that I’ve learned how to make that honestly.

How has your relationship with school changed?

I’ve realized how much it actually doesn’t matter; as in of course it is important to keep up with your studies. But thinking about it as long as I’m happy and healthy then I shouldn’t be stressed over the number of organelles inside of a cell. I guess I also realized how much more work teachers actually do, you know what I mean? I value their expertise more and their ability to teach us stuff.

How have you been physically impacted by self-Isolation?

I can’t really go to the gym anymore, and I can’t do my dance classes so I’ve been doing some online dance classes at home but I’ve been finding it hard to find the motivation to do so. Like if you look at my face you can tell that I’ve gained a pound or two.

What do you think is the biggest stressor in your life right now?

Our economy, I am just worried about if my parents are gonna be okay supporting us even though they have to like work from home or have less hours. I stress whether after this I’ll be able to get another job or if the government is going to be able to handle everyone applying for government services.

Do you have any regrets coming into this?

Missing the last day of school because I did not know that was going to be the last day.

What have you been watching on TV or Youtube lately?

Sense 8 with my friends on Netflix party.

What is your relationship with social media like right now?

I started making tik toks and one of my videos got 500 000 views.

Which one?

The one where I was in the bathtub with my converse. Yeah, I made a viral video.

How is it different being with your family all the time?

I’ve become like nocturnal, not gonna lie, sometimes I just wanna chill in the kitchen by myself. My parents usually spend time there during the day so I sleep in the day and at night it’s me time so I can be by myself.

Have you cut and or dyed your hair?

Many times, I bleached it twice and dyed it …. twice, and cut it as well. Do you wanna see? I kind of messed it up. I got the frosted tips I always wanted, then I got bored and then I grabbed scissors and some of my hair is now patchy.

Are you happy with it?

I’m not gonna see anyone for a while…so hair grows back right?

Do you think you’ll change anything about your life coming out of this?

I think I’m going to value my friendships with people more because I didn’t realize how much they mean to me. Right now not being able to see them every day I think I should have valued the time with them more.

What’s the first thing you’ll do when this is over?

Hang out with friends and get bubble tea.

John– 19 year old male

What have you been doing while in isolation?

I’ve been trying to do a lot of activities to keep busy like painting, walking and biking since the weather has been nice. I’ve been doing a lot of reading mainly.

How have you been emotionally and physically impacted by self-isolation?

I would say that I feel definitely more isolated which has increased a bit of depression a bit. I do have anxiety so COVID has really caused my anxiety to rise around the health of my family members. I find myself way more anxious about my family members’ health than I normally would be. Physically I am impacted because of anxiety, because of depression, because it’s hard to remain isolated from people, it’s hard to motivate myself to do a lot of exercise. I do feel a lot more stagnant.

How’s it different being with your family almost all day?

I think that it can be good and it can be bad. I think like everything else we have our moments and it’s hard because there’s a lot of us and we’re all spending a lot more time together. On one hand I find that positive some days, and then some days everyone gets really cagey and stressed out.

Do you have any regrets coming into this?

I regret not hugging people more before quarantine. I didn’t realize it would be a while until I got to hug people. 

What is your go to quarantine meal?

I definitely really enjoy making homemade Greek wraps because they’re really good and you can make it at home easily.

How has your outlook on life changed while living at home?

I think taking it moment by moment is just definitely something I never used to really do. I’m a very big plan ahead person this is next week, next month but that’s really changed as we don’t have a timeline on anything. I think that’s changed to me focusing on what am I doing at the moment, what am I doing today, maybe I’ll paint today, maybe I’ll do this. Just very loose goals, moment by moment distraction.

How has your body image been impacted by life at home?

I think I’m definitely more on myself about how much I’m eating and what I’m eating because I’m very aware of how sedentary I am. Despite being able to go on walks and bikes and stuff it’s still kind of hard to remain consistently as active as I was previous to quarantine. I definitely find that I am on myself more and that definitely increases my anxiety and doesn’t necessarily make me feel great. It also hasn’t been too severe because I remind myself this is a very exceptional time.

Have you picked up any new hobbies?

Probably art. I’ve done a lot more reading which I love.

You just finished your year of university, what is it like to be done right now?

It’s good because I don’t have to worry about final exams, but it also gave me something to distract me and I love what I’m doing in my degrees so I will miss thinking about it, especially since now would be the perfect time to have that distraction.

What are your thoughts/feelings on social media?

I think it can be really positive or really negative. I think that if you find that it’s negatively impacting you by heavily viewing the news and stuff then try and decrease your exposure. I found that was something that I needed to slow down on because it was just increasing my anxiety. I’ve been following some positive news on Instagram that always is cheerful and it’s all in moderation and it’s what you’re viewing. If it makes you feel bad then don’t watch it.

How do you connect with others during this time?
Lots of face timing: Facetime coffee dates, facetime lunches, phone calls constantly. Finding things you can do virtually together is really great, like Netflix party.

Have you cut and/or dyed your own hair yet?

I have not, no.

What’s the first thing you will do when this is over?

The first thing I’m gonna do after quarantine is go on a date with my boyfriend and sit in a coffee shop and have a really big latte.

Do you think you will change anything about your life after social distancing ends?

I think that I never used to really enjoy going to university but now I really truly do miss being at the school. I miss even simple things like being able to have a cup of coffee with family members or friends that you can no longer see. Until it’s taken away from you don’t really realize how much you appreciate it. I think I’ll appreciate a lot more things I didn’t use to appreciate. It’s a good reminder once we are living outside of quarantine eventually that this is something that we’ve missed.

Madison– 14 year old female

How has your outlook on life changed while in isolation?

I’ve had the opportunity to be more active and exercise every day now and I think I’ve really realized what an impact that activity has on your emotions. It’s made me happier I think and really improved my mood during isolation.

What do you do for entertainment?

I love to bake, cook and listen to music. Even maybe actually doing schoolwork just because it’s always there. I guess also a little bit of reading and painting. I really like watching TV.

What are you watching on TV right now?

I am obsessed with Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

How do you connect with others during this time?

Usually just text or call them as well as connect via social media. But I’ve also made an effort to email my grandma regularly because I know she feels alone.

Have you picked up any new hobbies?

I guess drawing a bit. I am also a whipped coffee making expert now, I’m an expert in sleeping.

What is your go to quarantine food?

Boiled carrots and corn.

That’s weird.

What are your thoughts/feelings on social media at this time?

There’s so many different platforms of communication that social media has made it a lot easier to communicate with my friends which helps me cope with not seeing them. Social media has helped me to connect with others when I cannot and I’m grateful for that. But I think that social media is very dishonest at times when it portrays quarantine as a really great thing when really a lot of people are struggling at this time, whether it’s due to staying home or being out of work.

Have you cut and/or dyed your hair?

No.

How was it different being with your family all day?

It’s kind of nice sometimes because you know you’re not alone in this. I have the opportunity to relate to them and have somebody to talk to. It’s frustrating at times but it’s nicer because we sit down for more family dinners now than we did before. 

How has your relationship with school changed?

It’s been a lot better because I’ve noticed I’m doing more work because it’s one of the things I can do.

How has your body image been impacted?

I feel like because food is just always there that it’s easier to eat and you do eat more of it. My body image has kind of change in the sense that if I do gain more weight I feel upset but it’s also about understanding because you have to accept the fact that you may just gain a little bit more weight, and there are certainly much worse problems.

What has been the biggest stressor in your life while living at home?

Probably my family. As much as I do love having them around I feel like I’m stressed that after this we won’t talk as much as we do right now because we are forced to see each other every day. We do fight a lot but you know, that’s family.

How do you cope with that stress?

Often when I’m frustrated with them I just go outside and get some fresh air.

Do you think you will change anything about your life after coming out of this?

I think I’ll go outside more and I’ll do more social activities because quarantine has really made me appreciate being outside and hanging out with people.

What’s the first thing you’ll do when this is over?

I miss swimming so I’ll probably go swimming or go rock climbing.

Author’s Note

I recognize the topics discussed above are applicable predominantly to those lucky enough to have food, shelter and good health. There certainly are individuals who are suffering greater adversities such as sickness, unemployment, domestic troubles and financial difficulties. The above interviews are focused solely on providing a small bit of insight into the perspectives of the common Canadian teen.

*Please note these interviews have been edited to improve length and clarity

*Certain names have been changed to protect the privacy of interviewees

Iliana is a grade twelve student from Calgary, Canada. She was a member of IYAB last term and is very excited to be back as Co-Chair for this year. Iliana is an avid volunteer with YVC and is a member of her local YVC Steering Committee. A licensed swim instructor, Iliana volunteers in the pool on weekends. She hopes to return to her work with Calgary Recreation in the fall where she supports an afterschool program. In her free time Iliana likes to avoid homework, get bubble tea and ski.

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