“Tests are on the computer. Work is on the computer. Everything, it seems, is on the computer.”
Over the last month, I’ve been under a stay at home order, as has much of the rest of the world. There have been bad times along with the good ones, and I just want to share briefly how it has been for me as a kid, cooped up in the same house as my family day after day.
There are pros and cons. While my family has always emphasized time together, we are spending more time together now than ever, largely due to the fact that there are no extracurricular activities. I am a dancer, and that used to take up a large part of my afternoon and evening, five days a week. My older brother also does his fair share of extracurriculars (saxophone, tennis, piano). But now, as we are not allowed to go anywhere or be near anyone not in our family, our days are much more open, allowing more family time.
Because of this new routine (or rather, lack of it), we have started to take daily walks. The trail behind our house is closed, about which we are all very sad. It has multiple loops that can mean a very long walk, and the trail is full of Dark-eyed Juncos, Black Phoebes, and White-tailed Kites, along with cotton-tail rabbits and jackrabbits, plentiful deer, and small rodents among the beautiful wildflowers and plants. I have always looked forward to taking a walk with the wind blowing in my hair and having fresh air fill my lungs, and it was such a shame to go up to the gate to the trail only to find it locked. It made me realize what a blessing the trail truly is.
However, we have managed to craft a route that is about four miles long, just by going along the streets behind our house. It is not the same as going along the trail, but seeing people’s nice yards that have been landscaped with a mix of pebbles, bark, various succulents, and other native plants blooming is a welcome sight from a computer screen and desk. The streets extend very far behind our house, and when you get to the top of some streets you can see all of the San Francisco Bay, from sparkling blue waters to the bright lights of cities across the bay. Somewhat surprisingly, the streets are steeper than the trail, giving our legs a nice challenge. One of the best things about our walks is that we have many meaningful conversations. For example, we talk about board games and how school is going, and my brother often has lengthy conversations about a board game he likes, called X-Wing (it is based on Star Wars). My older brother also sometimes skateboards along, providing entertainment and a change of scenery from our normal walks with mishaps from everything to falling off his skateboard to near collisions with lampposts.
These walks are now becoming a necessity. Being on a screen doing work all day is never someone’s idea of fun, and when you have four people in the same house on screens all day every day, that is not good news. We take walks to clear our minds and refresh them, and it helps very much.
A negative change that has occurred in my life is the greatly increased amount of time I am spending on a screen. My family never had many screens in our lives before the pandemic, so being on screens for remote learning/teaching/working is newer and our minds get easily tired, as well as our eyes. School was never focused on screens. But now, if I have to do something like a worksheet, I’ll upload it to a digital app and write on it with my Apple Pencil instead of doing it with pencil on paper. Tests are on the computer. Work is on the computer. Everything, it seems, is on the computer. There is just so much screen time, and it has caused me to be crabbier than usual because I am not used to it. I used to have next to no time at all on a screen. Now, I can be on a screen for hours at a time. I’m not very happy about that turn of events, and neither is anyone else in my family, as they too suffer from this change.
I grew up without a TV in my house, and I have always relied on books as my main source of entertainment. I still do now, even though my family just recently got a television, and we use it about once a week for a movie or an episode of Fawlty Towers. Because I have not had screens in my life, I am simply not accustomed to being on a screen so much. It is just not part of my daily life as it is with a lot of kids across the world. I do not play video games, either.
Another thing that relates to screens are the constant Zoom meetings. I have different teachers for every class, and each of those teachers meets with me three to five times a week. Some meetings can be highly productive and useful, while others prove to be a waste of time. If it weren’t for the class meets on Zoom, I could get my school work done much earlier. I don’t want to have a habit that takes me to Zoom as a default mode of communication right now, and I feel that my school has not thought about this fact.
I am glad, however, to have the privilege of staying home comfortably, with good food every day, a comfortable bed, and enough resources to still be learning at home. While there are things I’d like to have changed, I’m still grateful that I lead a relatively normal life in these times. There are countless more things that I could complain about or praise, but that would take a lot of pages.
Every day, I wish that the Coronavirus will end. Of course, I know that it won’t be granted, but each day I put out a little bit of my hope that this crisis will not be continuing much longer. I am hopeful as well as disappointed. I think about the ways that my life has changed. And then I realize, “You know, maybe this isn’t so bad after all.”