Shoppers browse through barren shelves at a Trader Joe’s in Hermosa Beach. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Ventura High School

Column: My house made of paper products

What teenager’s life isn’t busy?

I’m a planner, and I had something on my calendar every weekend through the end of the semester. I had academic plans, with study schedules timed out for the AP exams in the spring. I had travel plans to look at colleges and see family.

I had dances to go to — specifically prom. I had tennis practice and music rehearsal, and so much more. Then, like everyone, I had to rethink my days and my plans. I had to rethink my life in terms of my friends, my community, and my world.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. As someone who pays attention to current events, I did take notice of the illness outbreak in China. But it was a small note, lost in election primaries and presidential gaffes. It was a big stretch to imagine an illness affecting people in China could move so far, so fast, and kill so many.

And then, it was here.

Never in my life have there been so many unknowns. I haven’t left my house in almost a week. I’ve started a series on my Tik Tok social media platform called “pandemic hobbies.”

I’m putting on “concerts” in my living room for my family so they can see the product of my hours of hard violin practice, and I’ve taken to learning to homeschool myself because my district is still trying to figure out “distance learning.”

Last week I was preparing to go to Chicago to compete at nationals with my school’s honors string orchestra. Now I’m wondering if it’s safe to go to Target to grocery shop, and my dad has stored an arsenal of paper products.

My mom, a doctor, still takes care of patients, but the specter of many patients looms large. And things couldn’t be more different for the rest of my family and my friends.

Who ever heard of social distancing? The more news articles I read, the more real it feels.

How much longer will this go on? How am I supposed to prepare for my AP exams with no teacher? Will there be an AP exam setting for me to take the test? How is this going to affect my chances of getting into college?

My mind is overwhelmed with questions to which no one has the answers.

I remember my freshman year of high school, when the Thomas Fire swept through Ventura County in late 2017 and January 2018, the hills behind my home ignited like a massive bonfire.

I remember being off of school for five weeks while my friends gathered together their lives from the ashes left from the fire. I remember feeling sorry for my older brother, a junior at the time because he still had to take AP exams.

I sit here, now quarantined in my home basking in the irony. But this time it’s not just me. It’s not just my school. It’s not just my county. It’s the whole world.

When I think of it this way, I realize what a great responsibility the young people in the world have. The least affected statistically, young people, myself included, may tend to brush off social distancing as a nuisance and think that we can still meet in groups to keep us on track with our studying or just to have fun.

After all, 80% of people infected by coronavirus have mild disease. But the world is resting on our shoulders.

My decision to meet with a group of friends for a movie night could mean inadvertently spreading this disease, and not only no more school for the rest of the year but also filling our hospitals to their capacity in a number of days.

As each day progresses, new information comes out that makes this virus closer and closer to home, and each day, precautions become more and more intense.

During times of tragedy, people tend to come together. Before high school, I had never really experienced the effects of a tight-knit community supporting each other. Then the Thomas Fire happened in my town, and I watched strangers rally together to help those in need.

We contributed to GoFundMe fundraisers, bought clothes and gift cards, and copied math homework. Now I watch the world come together from my living room as schools work to provide online learning and even food for their students, as friends reach out to others through FaceTime to make sure no one is isolated, and as governments make tough decisions to assure the safety of their citizens.

Never before have I experienced a circumstance such as this one. And never have I seen our world closer together, even though we’re all at least six feet apart.