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Living through history gets old

Chuying Huo/YJI

It’s strange to live through a historic pandemic.

“I think it’s hard to reflect on this while we’re in it, it still feels so surreal. I do wonder how we’ll look back on it in a few years, and how it will be recorded in the history books,” said Anna May, 23, of High Wycombe, England. 

Through interviews with Youth Journalism International reporters, young people around the world shared their thoughts about experiencing a historic event firsthand.

In Little Chalfort, a borough of London, 18-year-old Lara Caitlyn McGlone said she feels lucky to be living through this surreal time. It is “something people will be talking about for years to come,” she said.

Crystal Palmer

Twenty-year-old Crystal Palmer, of Melbourne, Australia, said, “I think it’s going to be really good to look back on.” 

But Binnet Roberts, 22, a student at the University of The Gambia, said the pandemic is a life-changing experience full of anxiety and fear. 

She wasn’t the only one.

Karolyn Morris

“I hate it,” said Tia Hume-Jennings, a 15-year-old from Liverpool, England. “You think it would be great but I just want to kill the coronavirus.” 

“I am not feeling special or lucky or anything else,” said Maria Vitiadou, 20, of Athens, Greece.

Karolyn Morris, a 16-year-old from Suffolk, Virginia, said, “Most historical events that you remember forever tend to suck. What history is good? None! Right now it feels like it’s the end of the world, like an apocalypse with no zombies.”

People are dying. I just don’t want to be here.

Blessy josephin

Lucas Arata from Luxembourg said living through the pandemic is just “annoying.”

It’s one of the worst times for living, Arata said, because he can’t go out whenever he wants to, or even do something simple like go to the store.

Blessy Josephin of Chantilly, Virginia, added that she thought that living in a historic time would be memorable and fun, but that it’s not. 

“People are dying,” said Josephin, 15. “I just don’t want to be here.”

Jonas Amparo

Another young person who felt anxious was Jonas Roi B. Amparo, 18, who lives in Barangay, Sawang, Guidulman in the Philippines. He said he is anxious because he feels helpless and can only pray, follow orders and use his voice. 

Amparo also pointed out how people are complaining a lot, even though they are a lot more comfortable than the people at the frontlines. He said it is okay for people to complain, because so much is wrong right now. 

Many young people agree that this is not how they pictured this year. 

Sevgi Eda Keskin

“We are in the 21st century. We were supposed to be inventing new unheard ways of transportation, laser phones, flying cars and half cyborgs,” said Sevgi Eda Keskin, 18, of Istanbul. 

Instead, Keskin said, “We are at home trying not to get sick.”

Sarai Deese, 16, of Charlotte, North Carolina described her feelings with a metaphor. 

“It feels odd because from a bird’s eye view, everything is changing so drastically and quickly,” Deese said. “But from my perspective, it feels as though I am inside the eye of a tornado – I am able to comprehend the changes and nothing surprises me anymore, but my life feels more or less the same.”

Although the covid-19 pandemic has been damaging, there are still positive aspects and feelings during this time.

“This historical event really challenged me to think more critically and also opened my eyes,” Amparo said. “These times really challenged the Filipinos.”

Lara Caitlyn McGlone

Along with the awareness that covid-19 brings, it also reminds many of their luck and privilege.

Vedat Burak Sanel

“Despite it being a horrible situation, we are lucky to be living through this surreal time, and people will be talking about it for years to come,” said McGlone.

To many young people, living through this present crisis feels like part of something big, part of something that matters.

“I don’t feel lucky to be on the bad side of history,” said Vedat Bruak Sanel, 17, of Istanbul. “But at least I will have something to tell my grandchildren.”

As 16-year-old Zineb El Janati from Morocco said, “It’s good because you feel like you matter, staying at home and practicing social distancing and safety measures is a way of saving other people’s lives. The world relies on us all of us to keep each other protected and safe through following these simple rules. Another reason why I find it good is that because it would make a good story to tell to my kids or grandsons in the future. “

Zineb El Janati

In Mechanicsville, Virginia, 16-year-old Reem Fayed agreed.

“It feels cool, though,” Fayed said. “Like, I know it’s terrible and everything, and I know there’s people dying and people getting sick, and it’s such a sad time, but at the same time I’m like, I’m gonna be talking to my kids when I grow up about the coronavirus pandemic!”

“And they’re gonna be like, ‘Wow, what happened?!’ and, ‘What was going on?’ and I’ll be like, you know, making the stories very unrealistic, being like, ‘Oh, I got the virus and I was about to die and I was on a ventilator,’ and I’ll just make up stories,” Fayed said.

Reem Fayed

Meanwhile, some youth don’t have strong feelings about the pandemic, partially due to desensitization.

“I’m tired of it. I don’t care,” said Nicolle DeGroft, 17, of Suffolk, Virginia. She said the pandemic has already reached the point where it has become a major historical event, and because of that, there is no need for it to go on any longer.

Others have found ways to keep themselves busy throughout it.

“There’s not much impact on my own life, because I’m preoccupied with my schoolwork,” said Li Zing Yi, 15, of Beijing.

Sara Espinoza

The same cannot be said for the world as a whole, Yi said. “I think that this will have a big impact on our economy with a mass amount of lost jobs. I also feel this is a great milestone for medical advance.”

Some, like Pegah Moradi, 18, of Stockholm, attribute their own desensitization to the failure of people around them to pay attention to the pandemic and heed safety instructions.

Mira Schwarz, 16, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, observed a similar situation in a neighboring town in the spring.

“We drove to Dexter yesterday to go biking and it’s just a completely different situation, like 10 minutes out of my city,” Schwarz said. “They’re not social distancing at all. They had ice cream shops open. You wouldn’t have known there was a pandemic going on.”

Others, like Sara Espinoza, a 16-year-old in Quito, Ecuador, are undergoing a similar experience, as their daily routines haven’t undergone much change as a result of the pandemic. 

“I do not feel like I am living during a historical time,” said Espinoza. “Maybe when it is over I will actually realize what I lived.”

This story was reported by Salma Amrou in Suffolk, Virginia; Mariama Barry in Coastal Road, The Gambia; Aileen Cevallos in Quito, Ecuador; Nisha Chandar-Nair in Lincoln, England; Alyce Collett in Melbourne, Australia; Rosie Evans in Liverpool, England; Bilge Nur Güven in Istanbul; Holly Hostettler-Davies in Bridgend, Wales; Chuying Huo in Ontario, Canada; Erin Kim in Andover, Massachusetts; Manar Lezaar in Fez, Morocco; Katrina Machetta in Spring, Texas; Lyat Melese in Alexandria, Virginia; Nivetha Nandakumar in Cardiff, Wales; Purnima Priyadarsini in Bhubaneswar, India;  Aimee Shah in London; Parnian Shahsavary in Tehran, Iran; Lucy Tobier in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Daisy Wigg in Dartford, England. It was written by Salma Amrou, Aileen Cevallos and Chuying Huo, who created the cover illustration.

Covid Mood is a global project by Youth Journalism International examining how the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 impacted mental health among the world’s young people. Its 17 news stories and accompanying photos and illustrations are by 21 students from a dozen nations on six continents. Together, they interviewed 56 teenagers and young adults in 18 countries and mental health professionals from five different nations. All Covid Mood stories are accessible here.

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