Reflecting on a Younger Self: the COVID-19 Pandemic of the Early ’20s

Oh…how I remember the days when layers of masks outweighed layers of clothing. The days I stayed home to protect others…rather, I should say the months I stayed home to protect others. I was in my teens when COVID-19 hit us. Looking back, I know that history is written by the victors. Even though I never got severely ill from it, the virus affected every aspect of our lives, from the way we work and socialize to the way we think about our own mortality. However, if the clock were to rewind and news had just broken, with headlines blaring “COVID-19! Why You Should Be Afraid!” my response would not be much different from what it was then.

One of the most important things that I learned from the pandemic is the importance of staying calm in the face of adversity. There were times when it was easy to give in to panic and fear, especially in the early days when we knew so little about the virus. As daunting as the messages were from concerned peers, social media was flooded with information and misinformation, and highly politicized news, I believe that as a society, most of us did an admirable job of keeping our heads and not succumbing to hysteria.

Of course, there were moments of uncertainty and doubt, but overall, I do believe we managed to maintain a sense of perspective throughout the pandemic. We knew that we faced a serious threat, but we also recognized that we had the tools and the expertise to deal with it. If I were to speak to my younger self, I would advise her to express immense gratitude for the everyday privileges that go too often unnoticed. We relied on our healthcare workers, our scientists, and one another to guide us through this crisis, and, united for the betterment of the people, we rose to the occasion.

One thing that I wish I could tell my past self is to be mindful about precautions. In times of uncertainty, there is no such thing as being “too cautious.” I am fortunate in that my family’s circumstances enabled me to isolate myself from others and minimize my exposure to the virus, but looking back, there were things that I could have done to be even more careful. For example, I should have worn a mask even in presumably safe circumstances, such as with extended family members or close friends. It is common that the diligence with which we adhere to rules falters when we are in comfortable environments.

However, I do not want to dwell on what I could have done differently. Instead, I want to focus on what we did right as a society during the pandemic. One thing that stands out to me is the way that we pulled together to support one another. Despite the challenges that we faced, I saw so many examples of kindness and compassion. From healthcare workers risking their lives to care for patients to neighbors checking in on one another, I was heartened by the way that we came together as a community.

Furthermore, I am proud of the way that we adapted to the challenges of the pandemic. We found new ways to work, socialize, and connect with one another despite the limitations imposed by the virus. Hours upon hours of Zoom calls, homework from the comfort of my bed, and apps that connected me to teens around the world. Technology played a crucial role in this, allowing us to stay connected even when we could not be physically together. I think the pandemic showed us just how resilient we are as a society, and that we can adapt to and survive even the most difficult circumstances.

Looking forward, I believe that there are lessons that we can take from the pandemic that will serve us well in the future. We have learned the importance of preparedness and the need to invest in our public health infrastructure. We have seen the value of science and the need to listen to the experts when making decisions about our health and safety. And we have been reminded of the importance of community and the need to come together in times of crisis.

While the COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult and trying time, I believe that we came through it with our dignity and humanity intact. As a younger individual at the time, I was proud of the way that my generation handled the crisis all those years ago, and I am hopeful that the lessons we have learned will help us to be better prepared for whatever challenges may lie ahead.

Eleanor N. Macdonald is a sophomore at Williamsport High School and a member of Let’s end COVID!
Published: 5/20/23

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