Teens Face Life Issues During Pandemic

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By Ani Belorian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

BOSTON — For months now, teenagers all over the country have been trying to adapt to a drastic new reality. Because of their malleable ages, high school students have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic. Moreover, they have had to deal with the lack of socialization, which is one of their priorities.

Although adults have borne the brunt of the slowing of time, adolescents have also experienced this new situation. With sports, extracurricular activities, homework, and increasingly challenging classes on their minds, until the lockdown, teens rarely had time to spend with family and friends, or just do nothing. It’s a strange feeling, realizing that there is literally nothing to get done by the end of the day. Probably none would have minded the idea of having nothing to do, but now, the novelty of freedom has passed.

March 13, 2020. Friday the 13th. The day that many teenagers remember as the start of it all. There was talk of the coronavirus in school, but it seemed like the usual gossip. Many didn’t see the school closure coming.

Ava Movessian, a rising junior at Westford Academy, remembers that in the days leading up to the cancellation, “it was kind of chaotic in school, like, everyone was talking about it. And I knew that school was going to be cancelled, and I was kind of the one saying to my friends, ‘Oh, you know, I think school’s going to be cancelled. They were like, ‘No, Ava, it’s not going to be cancelled, what are you talking about?’”

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For others, it was completely unexpected — and very welcome. Rising Junior at Belmont High School, Tasha Simmons, recounts calling her friend and asking her what was happening at school. Her friend replied that it was all over Instagram that school was out for two weeks. “I was super happy about it,” she stated, “Like it was all excitement at that point.”

Up until the day that school was closed, Narine Mahserejian, a rising junior at Belmont High School, recalls teachers telling their students, “I’m working on the schedule that we’re not shutting down. Everything is normal until we get the say that we’re shutting down.”

This is what made it so unbelievable to her, because even the teachers didn’t have a clue. Many adults suspected that students would not be going back to school for the rest of the year, but many teens were holding out hope.

Nathan Kefeyan, a rising junior at Belmont High School, initially thought it was “a minor thing and we were just going to go back in two weeks and everything was just going to go back to normal.” When asked if he knew then that it was going to get as major as it did, he responded, “No, definitely not.”

School is such an immense aspect in the life of a teenager. It is something that kids don’t realize that they rely on so much until it suddenly disappears. Suddenly, one of the pillars that had kept teens stabilized was disturbed, unsettling the structure of daily life.

“Honestly, I don’t remember what I did in the beginning. Actually I do,” added Rose Tinkjian, a rising senior at Newton South High School, with a laugh. “I watched all of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’ And I did, y’know, some baking, here and there. I did a lot of sleeping, which was nice.”

“In the beginning of quarantine, I felt really alone,” Ava Movsessian stated, “because I was allowed to see nobody and the only way I could contact people was on Zoom or on FaceTime.”

Narine Mahserejian noted, “Towards the end, I kind of started doing stuff because I figured out that I was going to be in quarantine for a while. So finding things to do around the house, going outside, walking my dog.”

It seemed as though everyone was waiting for something to happen, then suddenly, when they realized nothing was changing, they knew that they couldn’t stand by and watch their days trickle past.

Ava Movsessian

Missing Friends and Sports

Hardly anyone followed a routine.

“I just sat around, because I didn’t know what to do…it took me a little bit to get an actual schedule for the day. School helped because it was something to do in the middle part of the day and then afterwards, I knew that for most of the day if I had school, then I had to make the best of the other part of the day that I didn’t have school,” said Nathan Kefeyan.

It turned out that just having some sort of activity to accomplish gives value to one’s time and how they spend it.

Additionally, this pandemic hindered many teens from getting to do things they were happily anticipating. Simmons and Mahserejian were both planning on taking part in the Belmont Girls Rugby Team. Both were very disappointed to hear that they would not be able to play this year.

Simmons said, “This year, I wasn’t going to be a starter, but I was going to be on varsity for the first time. And now next year, we’re not going to have the experience from this year [because] the freshman never were taught how to play. I don’t know any of the freshmen, which is crazy.”

Mahserejian agreed. “It was my second year, and I had become close with the seniors this year, so I was excited to play games with them and get better,” she said.

Coincidentally, both girls also have sisters who were seniors. “I wanted to see her graduate,” said Mahserejian, “Didn’t get to see that happen.”

Simmons was also distraught for her sister, saying, “It was a big thing, like she was an adult now.”

As for sports, Kefeyan, Movessesian, and Tinkjian were all saddened to hear that their prospects in hockey, volleyball, and crew, respectively, would be affected.

Kefeyan said, “I was on the J.V. [hockey] team and I was on the practice squad, so it just sucked because a lot of the players were looking forward to it and it hadn’t happened in a while.”

Movsessian was on a club volleyball team and their season got cancelled. “It was really sad,” she said, “because I was just getting really good and I was on a really good team and having fun.”

Lastly, Tinkjian’s spring season of crew was cancelled, “Spring is supposed to be the best season for crew because you get all the races, like a race every week. Iit would have been so fun.”

 

Tasha Simmons

Summer Camps

Many Armenian teens were extremely saddened to hear that Camp Haiastan would not be taking place. The 16-year-olds were especially disappointed, as this would have been their last year of teen session.

“I always love seeing my Armenian community because I don’t see much of them throughout the school year and summer is when I go to all the dances, and I get to spend two weeks at Camp Haiastan with all my Armenian friends,” said Ava Movsessian, who has been attending Camp Haiastan since she was 10. Tinkjian added that it would have been her “first and last year of teen session, because I didn’t go last year.”

Kefeyan called it, “the highlight of the summer.”

The teens interviewed — doubtless like their older counterparts — are looking forward to the return of ordinary things, like hugs and relaxed social interactions.

Movsessian said that she longs for a day when she is able to “live life and not always be in fear of catching a virus. I hope we can go back to somewhat having a normal life.”

Tinkjian said she awaits a day that “you can go and there’s a lot of people and you don’t have to worry.” When asked what the first thing that she would want to do if life goes back to normal, Simmons replied, “Hang out with my friends — and not have to think about it.”

Most teens seem to be adversely affected by the act of having to socialize while social distancing and wearing a mask. The two combined are stark reminders to them that they can’t unwind or relax, making social gatherings tense and awkward at times. All of a sudden, these kids, who never needed to be on alert when they were with their friends, have to keep their guard up at all times.

Education is going to be carried out in a very different manner for the next few months, if not more. These changes will surely have an impact on the future of high school students.

Kefeyan said, “They may try to cram a lot in or they may just leave some stuff out so it’ll affect my learning experience because we had to miss some school [in March].”

“I think it’s going to take a while for things to get back to normal,” noted Mahserejian, “so everyday life, I guess, going to college, having senior, junior year, education in general, things are going to change.”

“It’s making problems more immediate,” said Simmons. She thinks people are going to stop and consider certain issues more than they used to because this virus allowed a lot of people to gain perspective.

Pertaining to school, Simmons said, “It’s so different online, like we really benefit from person to person contact.”

Similarly, Movsessian stated, “It’s really difficult to learn online and I definitely can say that not being in school for this long, I’ve lost a lot of habits of studying,” adding with a laugh, “I also think that it’s insane that I passed or failed my entire third, fourth semesters. In a way also, I think, when college applications start, the coronavirus is going to be a big topic for all the essays because it definitely changed a ton of lives.”

In many schools, grades had to be altered in a way in order to be fair to all because of the upheaval this pandemic caused.

Tinkjian said, “Our grades are in weird formats now, so I think that means that colleges are going to start doing different application systems where they have to look more at your person instead of your grades.”

Lessons Learned or Time Wasted?

Finally, the million dollar question: Are there any lessons that you will take away from this period in the world’s history? The answers were all very similar yet unique.

Simmons reflected on the state of society and the natural changes that were occurring during this pandemic. She said, “I think part of the reason…obviously the Black Lives movement was a huge thing and it should’ve been and it would’ve been, but I don’t think it would have been as big if people hadn’t just been on their phones all day. Which occurred to me because everyone’s posting on Instagram constantly, everyone’s just like in it because there’s nothing else to do, which I think probably played a really major part in that.”

Movsessian and Mahserjian both talked about gratitude and actively recognizing all the blessings in one’s life.

Movsessian said, “I have to appreciate all the little things in life and all the people that I have in my life that I’m always surrounded by. Like I said, I always dreaded going to church at eight o’clock in the morning on Sundays…and now I realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I would do anything to just go back to church and Armenian and Sunday School.’”

Mahserejian agreed, saying, “Just appreciating things more, because I think I took things for granted and now I’m not going to do that. Seeing my friends every day, being able to see family, and go places, travel, all that stuff. It makes you realize how life is really short and you have to appreciate things.”

Kefeyan took this opportunity to discover more about himself and push the boundaries that were set for him during the school year, which consisted of a balance between school work and sports.

“It gave me time to pick up some hobbies and think about what are some things that I can do besides just school and sports. Even though there was school, I still had more time,” he said.

Teenagers are filled with hopes and dreams and aspirations, and these things give their life meaning. Life goes on and time does not stop for a virus. High schoolers all around the world, whether they realized it or not, came to learn this lesson. They found things to do, ways to be productive when school was gone. It was a shocking shift in thought, when school and socialization were at the forefront of their daily lives, then suddenly, they were gone. At a time in their lives where they are discovering who they are and what they want to stand for, teenagers were challenged to ask themselves harder questions. Their characters will be forever altered by the way they choose to answer these questions that are both internal and external.

And maybe one day, they’ll look back on March 13, 2020, and remember it as the day that changed their lives forever.

(Ani Belorian is a rising junior at Belmont High School. She enjoys creative writing, singing, and Armenian dance.)

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