Many people have been isolated from their friends and family members for several weeks. This toll that isolation has taken on everyone has been especially difficult for high school seniors whose proms, senior pranks, and ditch days have all been canceled. Their graduation ceremonies, a celebration of the four long years of hard work they have endured, have been moved to the internet. Of course, we were all looking forward to the insane parties after graduation. The prospect of moving away for college next year is now uncertain as many universities plan for virtual fall semesters. Studies are now showing that isolation may be good for one’s mental health; being alone allows people to reflect on their past actions and relationships they have with others. But for some reason, Gen-Z is not very fond of it as many see this kind of independence as harmful to their health. Brent Crane, a journalist for The Atlantic, wrote an article called The Virtues of Isolation. He states that “humans have long stigmatized solitude. It has been considered as an inconvenience, something to avoid, a punishment, a realm of loners.” Ah, there it is, the “L-word.” I think that everyone can think of one time in their lives where they were considered a loner. I know that I definitely can, and it is something that I have no shame in admitting. That doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like working with others; I’m a very team-oriented person as well. During quarantine, I’ve actually had the time to be completely alone. I have been enjoying walks in the park, reading, and writing all alone.
My whole life, I have been content with doing things on my own. I began to take the bus independently in fifth grade, slowly but surely learning a large majority of the MUNI lines (metro system in San Francisco). I started running errands–grocery shopping mostly–in the sixth grade and started doing chores around the same time. Starting these habits at a young age has helped me prioritize my responsibilities in multiple aspects: at home, school, and work.
High school is where I was able to become more responsible and independent. I realized that many people were in stable friend groups. I was basically a drifter–I got along with everyone so I was able to branch out and become friends with many people. I didn’t feel the need to rely on other friends to come with me to my locker or eat lunch with me all the time, although I began to see people heavily rely on their companions. On some days, I would never see two friends leave each others’ side, which concerned me. When one becomes an adult, they aren’t always going to have someone with them for comfort. I think about those people now, during this pandemic.
I see many people my age complaining on social media about how they aren’t able to see their friends right now and I know that is difficult. Many complain about having little to do, how virtual classes are a struggle for them, and how nothing is turning out the way they originally hoped.
That is why I see isolation as somewhat positive for teens–it allows them to recognize that you are not always going to have someone to fall back on. Sometimes, you will break down and your friends will not be there for physical comfort. Right now is the best time for people to learn about themselves and see what their strengths and weaknesses are. Your friendships will always be a priority, but you will have to balance that with school, work, and other future endeavors.
Things will not be as simple as they may have once been–the pandemic has made that painfully clear. It has taught us that adults do not always make good decisions, enabling us to make sure