The last day I felt normal: Teens on the pandemic

In their own words, students write about COVID-19, mortality and the last time they hugged their friends.

Mickey Thomas 3 minute read June 4, 2021
teens pandemic

'Will I Will I ever again know the feeling of greeting someone with a hug or shaking someone’s hand? asks Toronto's 17-year-old Mickey Thomas. Getty

We asked creative writing students at Toronto’s Rosedale Heights School of the Arts to tell us what it’s been like living through a global pandemic. These stories come together to  paint a stunning picture of darkness, fear and loss, but each, in its own way, also shine with hope, resilience and optimism for not only today, but also the future. 

There will come a day when the pandemic will end. Quarantine will be lifted, and we will somehow go back to normal. There will come a time in the future when someone will ask me, “What was the pandemic like?” What would I say? Where do I begin? How can one person fully describe an experience such as this?

Will I remember to mention people stocking up on anything they could get their hands on? My father would try to cram canned foods into the cupboard like the apocalypse was underway. Would I talk about how lucky I was to not have parents who had lost their jobs? Were there hundreds or thousands?

I reflect on the last day I felt normal — March 15th, 2020. That was the last time I hugged my friends, the last time I went outside without a mask on. Those memories seem historic, but they were made just less than a year ago. At least now I have an excuse not to be around people.

Isolation, irritation, bitterness
Should I discuss isolation? How fed up we became? My parents and I were irritable to begin with — one could only imagine how bitter we are now. Being stuck indoors with the same people for months on end only left room for arguments about if we should have something new for dinner, or nachos for the third night in a row. We became so bored that we resorted to playing celebrity trivia on the television. I couldn’t tell you how many COVID cases were reported in Toronto yesterday, but I can name every film Johnny Depp has been in.

Could I properly describe how strange life became? How days were over in a blink of an eye, and nights seemed to last for an eternity? How time lost all meaning, and every day became the same. It was a continuous loop for months on end. My friends in different provinces would talk about going out with their friends during the summer, while I continuously had nothing to report. Lying in bed from dawn till dusk was not very entertaining, but it was all I could bring myself to do.

How do I explain the inconsiderate — the anti-maskers and politicians not taking things seriously? How do I share the fear?

Will I live to see the end?
When the day comes that I have to describe to someone what the pandemic was like, will I know how? Will I ever again know the feeling of greeting someone with a hug or shaking someone’s hand? Will I even live to see the end? Despite my unfaltering bitterness, I am optimistic. The fear that 2020 has instilled in me has also forced me to grow, and I am grateful for the growth. At the ripe age of seventeen, I have become well aware of my mortality, and how quickly everything I hold dear can be stripped away.

That’s life, I suppose.

I no longer fear the future, and whether that be from maturity or just simply desensitization, I am comforted by the idea of a stop. Nothing lasts forever, everything comes to an end eventually — except for the everlasting supply of canned beans in my kitchen cupboard.

Mickey Thomas is grade 12 student at Toronto’s Rosedale Heights School of the Arts.

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