Learning to accept who I am: Teens on the pandemic

Vanessa Wright says the last year has helped her differentiate between 'wants' and 'needs.'

Vanessa Wright 3 minute read June 10, 2021
teens pandemic

For some teens, the pandemic has been a time to explore what truly matters to them. 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. 

It was March 12th, 2020. I had just come out of the Four Seasons Centre after watching the ballet Romeo and Juliet when I got a notification on my phone. I didn’t know then that the news would affect much more than just my day.

The first lockdown hit on Friday, March 13, 2020. I was under no illusion that I would be back to my regular life by the beginning of April. In fact, I remember passing my English teacher in the hall, wishing him a happy March Break, and he turned to me and said, “See you in seven weeks!” That was the last time I would see him for well over a year.

Thankfully, my parents were on the ball with homeschooling from the very beginning, quickly setting my younger brother and I up on a free online teaching program to keep us busy. When we weren’t doing school work, we found other ways to pass the time, like becoming mini master chefs, and making a squirrel documentary. I probably have just as many photos of squirrels on my phone as David Attenborough does.

There’s a saying that I have heard in the past that the pandemic has really made me understand: “Everyone has cards they have been dealt. You can’t change your hand, but you can work with what you got and persevere.”

For me, this has meant using my time to create a routine that has me getting outside three times a day. This is different from before the pandemic when I lived a very busy and hectic life — my parents were named the “Wright Uber Drivers” by the neighbours who would stand on their porches laughing at us running back and forth like headless chickens.

The pandemic has helped me realize what really matters to me. I have been able to differentiate between “wants” and “needs.” It’s so important to not be alone, to have at least one person with whom you feel safe sharing things can make a tremendous difference, especially now. These last few months have made me realize how much I appreciate everyone in my life — and to know that I am not alone feels like a big weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

I think that the biggest mistake anyone can make right now is not using this time to their advantage. Last summer, we went camping for five days, and it felt more important than any other time. In fact, getting away was exceptional and therapeutic.

A year ago, I thought to myself, “This is the year I’m going to find myself.” But now, after all the time that has passed, I can honestly say that what’s important is not as much finding myself, as it is accepting who I am. And that’s made me happier than I have ever been.

Vanessa Wright is a student at Toronto’s Rosedale Heights School of the Arts.