As the coronavirus grew into a global pandemic, it quickly uprooted each of our definitions of what it meant to live a normal life. To be confined to our spaces watching the nation ultimately come to a jolting stop, we were forced to face the overwhelming and uncertain truth that life as we knew it had been canceled.
We asked young people in California from Sacramento to Long Beach to share their personal perspectives and sentiments around the abrupt changes to their lives caused by this pandemic. Contributions include young people from Access Local TV, The kNOw, VoiceWaves, We’Ced, and YR Media.
Melissa Franco, Access Local TV – Sacramento
As COVID-19 started to find it’s way to California, I was getting ready to leave my second job, working with teens in Downtown Sacramento and was feeling a lot of anxiety during this time in my life. I went to dinner with my family to celebrate my 21st birthday on March 10th; the last time I left my house for a reason other than to buy groceries.
Before the virus made its way to Sacramento, I was living like a maniac prioritizing my jobs over time with myself and family. There is much uncertainty about the future, but I believe now is the time where many people are finding themselves at a similar crossroads; either continue to “go-go-go” when things go back to some kind of “normal” or slow down and be present in the moment. Many people are feeling like they miss going out to events, miss seeing their friends, and miss their normal day-to-day activities. For me, I am feeling very grateful to be home with my family.
This virus is making the issues that our societies have more apparent than ever. We are realizing as a collective, that there is much to be done about the ways we have been living. Social gatherings may be canceled, but spending time with yourself and reflecting on how you practice self-care is not. We all have no choice, but to stop and take a deeper look within to rethink the ways we have been existing on Mother Earth.
My heart aches for all of the families that are losing their loved ones to this virus and I hope we find a vaccine sooner than scientists currently believe they will find it.
Ruben Diaz, The kNOw – Fresno
March 11-21. That was when Matilda the Musical was supposed to show at Central Unified. March 11 came and we had our average opening. We were all excited about it and for the next show to come. Everything seemed fine on opening day. However on March 12, everything came down and life got canceled. We got the news through our director, and again shortly after by the principal. Due to COVID–19, Matilda the Musical had been suspended. In that short time I went still. I knew this was happening to some productions, but I didn’t think it would happen to us. I liked to think that we wouldn’t present for only a couple days. Everything was fine the day before and then all of the sudden everything around me was starting to be canceled; the show, sports, and even classes. Time started to pass and March 21, our last performance day, came; except we weren’t performing. I was sad, as a large part of the theater department was made up of seniors. People that no longer had a chance to perform their last show; their last appearance. We didn’t even have a chance to tell them goodbye. This hit the cast hard, but we were more worried about the future of the theater program because we heavily rely on what we can get from show sales.
Unfortunately, this isn’t something that just happened to Central. Due to COVID–19, a lot of productions and theaters are being closed and shut down, affecting the performing arts as a whole in many ways. This isn’t like a movie which can make money years later after its release date. Theater is live and that short amount of time a show is one is the only chance at delivering a quality performance and gain enough to cover the cost.
With everything being placed on hold or being canceled, it will be really hard for entire theater companies to recover everything they’ve put in. All the money, time, and resources are going to waste with little to no chances of recovering. This can completely shut down entire theater programs for good as with the shows that they had hopes to perform. It is worrying to think about what the future holds for theater programs after COVID–19. How will they recover?
Briana Mendez-Padilla, VoiceWaves – Long Beach
When life gets canceled, it takes a while for it to sink in. The day they announced school was out due to the virus is a blur. It felt like one of those cliche movie moments where everything turns to slow motion. As a natural worrier, I skipped the phase of absolute excitement at the prospect of no school, which I know enveloped many of my peers. My mind, as it tends to do, went straight to what now? As a senior, I was preoccupied with what this meant regarding graduation and any social aspects of senior year. I was truly worried about whether they would extend the school year or if we wouldn’t graduate. Now, I’m in a clearer mind space. I will be graduating; just not in the way I always dreamed of.
When life gets canceled, it’s tough. I try to act like it doesn’t affect me because, “there are people dying.” My silly senior year cannot be more important than that, but it does not make my pain any less valid. I struggle with expressing how disappointed I am with others, aside from my close friends, because I don’t want to sound ungrateful or be told to get over it. My high school experience has been a hell of a ride. I started freshman year at Long Beach Poly then moved back to Mexico. I came back and attended a continuation school due to the lack of available space at Long Beach Poly. Junior year, I returned to Poly and finally had my first “normal” year. Turns out junior year would be my only normal year. There were so many senior activities I had been looking forward to since last year. Like the senior breakfast, senior walk and prom. But most of all, finishing this rollercoaster ride that high school has been and walking across that stage with my friends. It would have provided closure. All these things I had taken for a fact that they would occur are now clearly not. If anything, I wish I could’ve said a proper goodbye to my friends and teachers that fateful Friday 13.
Steven Rice, We’Ced – Merced
As a senior at El Capitan High School, spring break was creeping up on us, senior activities were in mind, and all the seniors were ready for our promised graduation. Our track season was starting off and most of the seniors who had been working hard over the last few years were preparing to compete for higher titles. I was ready to go to higher competitions in shot-put. The season had barely begun when COVID-19 arrived. Day-by-day the spread of the virus slowly started to scare people. Once it became a national emergency, all sports, matches, and big tournaments got postponed or canceled. When I heard our track season was canceled I was heartbroken. Track was my outlet for stress and I had grown to love the grind of the sport. I knew I couldn’t be the only athlete heartbroken because I’ve met a lot of people who were super talented and working towards scholarships, college opportunities or something much bigger. This virus has cost some athletes their opportunity to be seen by colleges, which sucks because athletes preparing for college now have to work much harder towards their goals once the spread of this virus ends.
Etta Washburn, YR Media – Oakland
The biggest thing that changed for me during this statewide shutdown was suddenly not having a regular school day. Initially, I was a little relieved to hear that school would be suspended for the time being; I was in the middle of my junior year and my workload was just about unbearable. However, soon I realized how much I missed normal school. I got to see my friends every day, which always improved my mood dramatically, even if it was just for a few minutes between classes. Now, my social life is basically non-existent. Keeping in touch with my friends is really important to me, but it’s just not the same over FaceTime. And although school can be stressful, it’s also incredibly stimulating. I had classes I genuinely enjoyed and my days had a purpose. Now under quarantine, all my days blend together. I’m being assigned work, but it feels meaningless when the future is so uncertain. I have friends who are separated from their parents who work in hospitals and I’m supposed to do my algebra homework? When life is canceled, I feel like I have to reevaluate what’s important to me.
California Youth Media Network partner contributors to this collection include: Access Local TV, The kNOw, Voicewaves, We’Ced, and YR Media. Follow more stories from the California Youth Media Network on Twitter.