In Their Own Words

An abnormal normal

The idea of returning to normal has never felt so abnormal.

Delta. Comirnaty. Tridemic. Bivalent. Masking. These were just some of the words featured in my daily word search throughout the day. Constant Spotify ads, fading street billboards, flickering TTC next arrival screens, peer chatter and my daily news feed, I’m sure I’ll find them all.

When prompted to share my learning experiences around COVID-19, a variety of topics came to mind. We’ll start with routine. Routine serves as such an integral part of my ability to move along with life. Let’s be frank, waking up just to sit in front of a computer screen for a couple hours was not a rewarding experience. 9998, 9999… 10,000 steps! Unlike some youth that focused on Instagram followers, the only quantitative data that I valued was my daily step count.

Awkwardness of masking was a highlight for me. Masks come in so many different shapes, sizes, colours. Which one should I be wearing? Some peers are wearing masks, some aren’t, should I be wearing mine right now? Shouldn’t you keep it on when you’re talking? While hungry for details and explanations, I realized that there was no simple answer, not even a fortune cookie could tell me.

Frequently, I’d find myself filling the role of “therapist” or just someone to vent to. More often than not, they wouldn’t be health-related concerns, but rather topics like school that have been significantly impacted these past years. That’s where my words of reassurance come in. Oftentimes, I would always use the analogy of a sinking boat, in a bid to reassure others. Paris by the Chainsmokers depicts it perfectly: “If we go down, then we go down together.”

COVID-19 took a toll on me as well. It’s so challenging to monitor a Zoom chat while nodding to the camera as if I’m actively engaged. Cold mornings, early classes, slippery sidewalks, hectic Toronto traffic and a moist mask from all the condensation. I personally… would rather stay in bed. The blatant lack of motivation led to procrastination. As expected, sleep durations and quality decreased, more acne sprouted while the bags under my eyes grew. As strong as my immune system could be, I wish my thoughts and emotions were just as easily cured with a vitamin C chewable.

I think it’s important to embrace the “ups and downs” like a boat during a rocky storm. As my principal would say, “[At] Harbord, we CARE for each other. TOGETHER. We are ONE!” And then … there’s health inequities. We can debate causes but not impact. Without a doubt, COVID-19 has exposed gaps in our vulnerable populations, health-care infrastructure, social inequities, and more. From the messy world of politics to the eroding health-care system, it almost seems like an ongoing cycle waiting to be interrupted. We’ll save that story for another day. J

Is this the end? We’ll see. This is my COVID-19 Story.

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Sean Chen

Harbord Collegiate Institue – Grade 10,
Toronto, Ontario

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