THE NEW NORMAL: Even Introverts Need Friends

Zakary Robinette

It was near the end of my 8th grade when Covid made its way to the U.S. Since school shut down, we started online classes. At first, I liked staying at home because I was much less stressed. But later on, I started to notice my grades dropping because I wasn’t able to pay attention in an online setting in contrast to an in-person environment. I didn’t really understand what was going on with the world at the time, I didn’t know that people were hoarding supplies and protesting the mask mandate, I thought that Covid was going to be around for only a few months. It stayed and it didn’t just get worse, but people started spreading it intentionally by refusing to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

When the Covid vaccine came out, I was really excited to get it, but I wasn’t old enough at the time. When I turned 16, I got the vaccine a week or two after my birthday. When I heard that people were refusing to get the vaccine, I was confused and upset that people were, and still are, not realizing that a vaccine released by the CDC is safe.

Many people were fired from their jobs because companies had to save money. My family was lucky enough to keep their jobs, but we still struggled financially because of the increased product prices in stores.

Over time, my family and I got used to living with Covid and it didn’t affect us too much. My brother’s prom and my Freshman year homecoming were canceled. I was still able to have a small group of friends over to celebrate homecoming, so it wasn’t completely ruined.

Not being able to go out and see my friends as often as I used to affected my mental health in a negative way. I was much more depressed and missed being able to see my friends at school everyday, this was the same for the rest of my family and friends.

After a while of school being online, people were able to go back two days a week. Most of my classes were mostly empty and lunch felt lonely because nobody was allowed to sit near each other. It felt weird to walk in the hallways because I was used to the crowded setting where people would constantly be pushed around; there were still some people. I was able to see my brother in the halls. It was nice being able to talk with him and meet his friends, but I was still upset because I wasn’t able to really meet new people.

I’m not a social person even if I try to be, so I have a hard time making friends on my own; but I was lucky enough to have lunch with old friends from elementary and middle school this year. It was easier to reconnect with them because we already knew each other, and I was able to make new friends through them.

Sitting in classes all day makes the year feel so much longer than it already is, but this year I realized how close I was to being halfway through my high school experience. It surprised me and scared me because I can’t really comprehend what living on my own will be like. People often talk about what they want to do in their future, but I still have no idea what’s right for me. Covid might stick around for many more years and I know that will affect my career decisions. Covid has affected everybody’s life whether they realize it or not.

The biggest thing that I’ve learned from Covid is how important it is to have friends because during the quarantine, I only knew a few people that I could talk to. I don’t think that life will ever go back to how it was before Covid, but hopefully it gets better.