By Phoebe Eis, Writer
When schools shut down that fateful day mid-March, not one person could have guessed what the future held. Students of New Paltz High school and humans all over the world were united in the experience of a global pandemic and physical isolation from peers, friends, and even family. Times of great adversity lead to change, and this period of isolation is no exception. The hardships of a pandemic, isolation, overwhelming news, and the world turning upside down have left a great impact and produced lasting transformations. Everyone has been changed in many ways, and have all been forced to adapt their lifestyle.
“I went through so much,” says NPHS junior Solana Cantú. “It’s like if you beat the [heck] out of clay and turned it into a sculpture.” Most people have spent much more time with themselves than they are used to, and have been able to reflect on life more. Social media, music, and television provided entertainment and inspiration during an unstable time.
“I regressed a lot with media… for comfort,” Solana remarks. “It’s better to have something you can control since everything is so unpredictable.” Resurgence in the popularity of children’s shows and movies like Avatar the Last Airbender and nostalgic video games like Animal Crossing certainly suggest that in times of trouble, people turn to familiarity and fantasy to escape.
An interesting dichotomy exists between reminiscing about the past and changing rapidly in style and mindset. Young people especially have posted about and strived to “glow up” during quarantine: dying their hair, introducing new workout regimens, reinventing their wardrobes, and more.
“I’ve become more bold with my style,” says Amelia Looft, a sophomore at NPHS. “All the time in which I knew no one would see me gave me a chance to experiment.” Fashion trends have quickly evolved to incorporate alternative influences, such as punk or goth clothing, showing a new comfort level and risk-taking element in style. Insomuch as external change and experimentation occurred, perhaps more impactful was the way many teens have developed emotionally. Confidence and self-acceptance has become important in a time where everyone spends so much time alone with their thoughts. “I realized I was pretty,” Amelia notes. “That was an epiphany after having a lot of self hate.”
Media has had a profound impact on style and personality for teens. Tik Tok and Instagram are hosts to numerous subcultures based on music taste, clothing, interests, hobbies, and many other identity factors. Tik Tok has “completely changed what I want to wear and look like.” according to another NPHS junior. Thrifting for clothes and experimenting with do-it-yourself fashion have become pastimes for some. Meanwhile, without social interaction to fuel self-image, the media has played a tremendous role in shaping young-people’s minds. “I adopt mannerisms from people online and in movies,” one admits.
Creative outlets have proven to be essential during lockdown as music, art, crafts, dance, and even baking bread keep people occupied. The cathartic process of creating can help make sense of the world where logic fails. It also provides a distraction and a sense of productivity and fulfillment. Even as businesses, jobs, and schools have shut down, artistic endeavours go on.
“I discovered I love writing and creating much more than I thought,” says Catarina Morgiewicz, a NPHS junior. Prolonged isolation has also created opportunities for introspection. Teens are contemplating spirituality, philosophical identity, friendships, relationships, and the future. Being removed from the scrutiny of wider society has allowed time for questioning surrounding gender and sexual identity. When everything that people thought they could count on disappeared, they had to create their own meaning and fulfillment in life, drawing personal conclusions about faith and the nature of the universe.
With the inequity embedded in America and the greater globe being further exposed by the pandemic and outbreaks of brutality, youth especially have expressed their dissatisfaction with the status quo. Some have exercised their rights in protest or have taken to social media to make their voices heard and, even during social distancing, have been able to connect on a greater level. The accumulation of these rapid changes around the world and within individuals has led to a turning point, a distinctly marked “before” Covid-19, the present “during,” and the unknown “after.”
Amidst all the hardship endured, the global pandemic has shaped nearly everyone in countless irreversible ways. Emily Lawrence, a NPHS junior, pondered just how much quarantine would impact her going forward. “It put things into perspective.”
Featured Photo: Olivia Hono