Living In A New Normal

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By Zack Siegel

These are crazy times. We are living in a world dominated by fear, despair and isolation. People are falling ill, businesses are crumbling and our social lives have come to an utter halt. Milestones like birthdays, weddings, graduations and proms have been cancelled.

What some are calling the “new normal” is the furthest thing from normal. We all know about the negative aspects of our current situation. I would like to focus on the positive things that may come out of this crisis, specifically, the concepts of rediscovering, connecting and accomplishing and how they relate to today’s youth.

At the top of my list is rediscovering. Given the relative short period of time that we, as teenagers, have been on this earth, the concept of rediscovering anything may seem ironic. We are supposed to be discovering new and exciting things in our life, not going back to our old ways (or so we are told). Before the quarantine, our lives were programmed from morning to night. Perhaps the most valuable gift the current crisis has provided us with is time. The additional time in our lives is largely unassigned and left up to us to figure out.

Bike rides, long walks, family game-time or just re-reading a favorite book—these activities have reemerged in our lives. It is amazing to think that during such a confusing and complicated time, it is these simple pastimes that bring us so much joy.

Connecting is a complicated word for someone growing up in the age of Xbox Live and FaceTime. The “connecting” that I am speaking of is connection on a physical, interpersonal level—not over the internet. One thing that being in quarantine has taught me is how much I miss actual physical contact with my friends. There is something inexplicably different about connecting through physical interaction, such as shaking hands, hugging, or going to a concert, than simply communicating with friends through video games or Zoom. Distance learning and online classes can never replace the comradery and creativity of the physical classroom. While digital communication is fun and a necessary part of modern life, social distancing has taught me the value of actual, physical, human contact. Recently, one of my closest friends suffered the tragic loss of his father. Due to social distancing restrictions, I was limited to speaking with him from our family car while he sat on his front lawn. All that I wanted to do was to give him a big hug and comfort him. It is a moment that I will never forget and will forever remind me of the true meaning of connecting.

What does “accomplishing” mean to a teenager in the age of COVID-19? Does it mean completing your homework, working out, watching your favorite television show and developing a new, at-home, antibody test? Of course not. Quite simply, accomplishing means making the most of your new lack of schedule. In the early days of the quarantine, I treated every day like a weekend; go to bed at 2 a.m., wake up at Noon. During the remaining hours of the day, I would accomplish nothing more than completing my schoolwork for the next day. I spent lots of time on the couch, playing video games and watching television. I was bored and started going crazy. With a little encouragement from my parents, I created a new schedule and routine. I quickly realized that if I went to bed at a normal hour, I could wake up in the morning and accomplish so much in a typical day. The hours typically spent at school are now used productively and I still have plenty of time for relaxation and rediscovery (and Tiger King). Amazingly, I have become more productive as a result of the crisis.

When I start to feel down, I try to focus on turning lemons into lemonade. The concepts of rediscovering, connecting and accomplishing are playing an important role in my life right now. I am hopeful that when we make it to the other side of this crisis (and we will make it to the other side), that I will be able to take the lessons that I have learned and challenge myself to put them to use in my new “normal” life.

I would like to dedicate this column in memory of Andrew Daniels.

—Zack Siegel
Zack Siegel is a student at Schreiber High School in Port Washington

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