By Nathan Aszkenazy
San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol
The COVID-19 pandemic at the start hit my life hard and caused me to lose two years of my life – including what was supposed to be my final year of high school. I looked forward to senior year and my turn to celebrate my accomplishments and take my next big steps.
But, instead of going to prom, senior retreats, and having a real graduation, COVID-19 shut us down and ordered us to stay at home. I was forced to sit in my room and twiddle my thumbs not knowing when I could see my best friends and extended family in person again.
I went through many mood swings during the beginning stages of the pandemic, at first, I thought it wasn’t so bad. Being able to sit in my room binging on TV and playing video games with my computer set to the side – running classes on Zoom, was kind of freeing.
But, this soon became very monotonous. Surrounded by the same walls, trying to pay attention to zoom classes, and doing the same exact things every day began to drive me a little bit crazy.
Being a very social person, I yearned to be able to see my friends outside of FaceTime and just hang out. But, this wasn’t possible. Even though I felt I would’ve been fine if I were to contract COVID, I lived with my parents, and I had no idea what would happen if I brought COVID back to them.
While I was able to achieve peak physical health during this time, I found my mental health began to lag further and further behind.
Now, months into this pandemic after I had run out of things to entertain myself with, I was forced into deep self-reflection, became overly critical of myself, and negative feelings began to amplify.
As I became more and more fixated on what this pandemic did to my age group, I began to ask my friends about their experiences and found that a lot of them felt similarly, but some people felt effects that wouldn’t have even been on my radar.
“COVID exacerbated my feelings about myself at the time, but was never the cause of them,” said Maya Goldgisser, a 2020 graduate of Leman Manhattan Preparatory School. This period of time was especially tough she said because there “were no outlets” to distract herself from the many internal battles she faced.
Zachary Thannum, a 2020 graduate of Sierra Canyon already had learning differences and the pandemic made it harder. “As someone who has Attention Deficit Disorder ADD, my brain had become rewired, and it was very hard to get back into the swing of school, and [it was] demoralizing,” he said.
This pandemic affected us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We struggled with increased self-criticism, return to normal schooling, seclusive anxiety, and dealt with these problems in many ways – often quietly.
It’s beginning to become clear that COVID is something we will have to live with for a long time if not forever, and you can see young people aren’t going to wait around anymore to start living life as before.
We know that the number of cases can go up again, especially during the upcoming winter months, but we should consider what is the appropriate response.
Personally, I don’t want to constantly live in fear of getting sick only to wake up at 30 years old with COVID and my 20s being gone.
Obviously, there are exceptions to just throwing caution to the wind, especially if you live with an elderly or immunocompromised person, but at the end of the day, COVID caused a mental health crisis for me and for many of my peers and extended restrictions will only exacerbate it.
Our mental health can be as crucial as our physical health. It’s time for us to live.
Nathan Aszkenazy is a third-year student currently enrolled in Wesleyan University planning to enter the entertainment industry after he graduates.