The pandemic has robbed high schoolers of key teenage experiences such as class retreats, school dances, graduation ceremonies and most of all, spending time with each other.
We’re all disappointed. These emotions are valid, but it’s only part of the story.
Although we have experienced much loss, our generation has also gained unique experiences we can utilize to our benefit. Let’s not focus on what we’ve lost. Instead, let’s think about what we have learned.
When the pandemic first began, we were confined to our homes and glued to our computer screens. In-person interaction with non-family members was virtually nonexistent.
With access to friends greatly diminished, we had to learn how to rely on ourselves for support. In the process of facing our demons by ourselves, we’ve learned how to deal with difficulty.
These experiences have magnified our coping mechanisms and have made us more resilient.
“The ability of teens to weather the pandemic is closely tied to the strength of their executive function abilities — or the mental skills we use to navigate daily life,” according to a Stanford study published in August 2020.
A year of social isolation has also taught us to build healthy routines and care for our bodies’ physical health.
Being confined to our homes with fitness centers closed, it was easy to lose motivation to eat healthy and exercise.
“During the initial phase of lockdown, the participants had a negative situational perception and a lack of motivation for fitness exercise,” according to a Banaras Hindu University study published in late 2020. “However, there was a gradual increase in positive self-perception and motivation to overcome their dependence on gym and fitness equipment and to continue fitness exercises at home.”
Realizing we would remain in isolation much longer than we first thought, we had to learn to take our physical health into our own hands and establish new health routines that worked for us while allowing us to remain safe.
The many alterations to daily life during the pandemic have taught us to be grateful for what we have while making us better at accepting change.
As the country slowly reopens, teens — high school seniors, especially — have learned to be grateful and roll with the punches.
Experiencing a global pandemic has shown us the extent of many pressing issues including rapid climate change, racism and increasing economic inequality. It has also given us a glimpse of what we are capable of.
We developed a vaccine in under a year and revolutionized our relationship with technology. We rekindled the civil rights movement and learned how to be alone. We persevered. Now, we look to the future with optimism.
The pandemic has altered our expectations, but it has also given our generation a unique set of experiences that we can use to better the world.