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Classroom Voices

The psychological effects of COVID quarantine, one year later

May 16, 2022


A sign taped to the front door of Pulaski International School of Chicago reads, School Closed after Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, said it would cancel classes. January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Jim Vondruska

by Chameiry Marmolejo, high school junior, New York City

I don’t believe people talk enough about the detrimental effects the COVID-19 quarantine has had on this generation, not only physically but mentally. Many in my generation still feel like we have a different mental and chronological age. For instance, in my mind I’m still a freshman, but in reality I’m about to become a senior.

Many in my generation still feel like we have a different mental and chronological age.

I struggled a great deal during quarantine, from social anxiety to a loss of academic validation, and I no longer knew what was expected of me or who I was. Like me, a sizable number of young people lost valuable time for self-expression and reflection during quarantine. We were then thrown back into the in-person world with the expectation of normalcy, but I remember going back to school and forgetting how to take basic notes.

Related: Listen to Student Reporting Labs “On Our Minds” podcast for more on student mental health in the age of COVID

I often felt like my body and mind would be in two different places and nothing felt real. Maybe I was going crazy from being trapped within four walls and a roof, but my need for escapism increased exponentially. Whether it was through social media apps or streaming services, students were forced to find new ways to escape the mess that was our reality; while some found new ways to adapt and cope, others had a harder time. A number of young people are still suffering.

I have contradictory feelings about the experience. One one hand, learning remotely was one of the worst experiences of my life. On the other hand, it was one of the best.

I often felt like my body and mind would be in two different places and nothing felt real.

While I enjoyed sleeping in, staying in bed and being in my pajamas all day, I didn’t appreciate the extra amount of work teachers gave or the fact that I didn’t eat lunch until 1:30 p.m., nor did I enjoy essentially teaching myself everything. As a straight-A student with reliable time management, I still struggled to stay on top of my school work and check on my mental health.

One day when my anxiety from the pervasive stress in the air was at its peak, I found myself crying into my pillows after chemistry class. Meanwhile, my 11-year-old sister was in the living room yelling at her screen because her teacher couldn’t hear her. Despite everything, quarantine taught me something valuable: how to work under pressure. It also taught me that we are more alike than we think, and no one has it all figured out. Sometimes we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Chameiry Marmolejo is a junior at the High School for Environmental Studies in New York City. She enjoys media studies and aspires to uplift voices that are overlooked in pop culture today. 

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