As Philly endures the second wave of coronavirus-induced shutdowns amid an intense year marked by change and chaos, our days are suddenly imbued with déjà vu, a feeling that we’ve lived through this before. Publishing Dec. 2, and available for preorder now at the Mighty Writers website , Writing from Quarantine: In the Words of Mighty Kids features the voices of 30 kids, ages 8 through 18 and students at Mighty Writers, a local nonprofit that teaches children how to write. In the book, edited by Mighty Writers alum Kyra Spence, the young authors share their experiences of living through 2020 and the first wave of the pandemic, reflecting on their fears, hopes, and the meaning of this moment in history.
As we head into the last month of a monumental year — with COVID cases still rising and worries about future restrictions — The Inquirer chose five bright young Mighty voices to remind you that we were tough enough to get through this before, and we will do so again.
by Maryam Rahman, age 13
The dissatisfaction of staring at your ceiling all day, of missing family, of distance learning. The trauma of a day’s journey from my bed to my computer and back, the tiring of the things I used to love, the sense of being grounded for my safety. I think I’ll be here forever.
I hope not. Because the news and these four walls are starting to make me psycho.
I wonder what Cardi B and the Kardashians are doing right now. Are they suffering from claustrophobia? Do they even need a stimulus check? They probably get theirs first. I wonder if America’s government is The Matrix. Donald Trump ... more like Agent Smith with Congress as the other agents, lol.
The coronavirus has ruined my life this year. As a child, Ramadan and Eid were the best time of the year: Meeting up with my Muslim friends on the playground after prayer, eating dates and Arab food. But this year, we couldn’t do it, because we had to perform social distancing.
I miss the beautiful sights outside. I’ve learned what I’ve been missing out on. Now I only see these four walls of depression, of the memories and regrets of the thing I wish I could forget. I need to get away from this sadness. Music kinda helps I guess.
I constantly scare myself into thinking I have the illness, forgetting I’ve always had shortness of breath on the regular, from just walking up the steps. Now I get scared whenever someone sneezes or coughs, even on TV.
There have been many “rumors,” but no one knows if they’re true or not. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to stay home, stay claustrophobic, and stay bored, because this will be all over eventually. Like Kimmy Schmidt from Netflix says, “Just take it 10 seconds at a time.”
by Jeremiah I. Reyes, age 14
Our world as we know it will never be the same. The deadly and contagious virus named COVID-19 that originated in Wuhan, China, early this year has arrived in America. The spread occurred quicker than our government anticipated, and we were unprepared for what was to come. I watched the news that came from the White House with disbelief and extreme concern. I held my breath for a second, trying to make sense of what I was hearing.
Isolation has been difficult and sorrowful. It affected the moments I was able to spend time with friends and more importantly, go and stay with my dear grandparents, which I had always done on weekends. I couldn’t visit them because they were at high risk due to their underlying health issues. People were unable to go to work; some lost jobs. I felt very worried when my parents went to buy things we needed such as milk, bread, and water, and these basic things were scarce.
I live with my older brother, younger sister, and my parents. My father and mother are both essential workers that do completely different types of jobs. I can tell it’s stressful on them. They worry about getting the virus and passing it onto us, but they also understand they are essential and have to do what needs to be done. I usually talk to everybody in my house, making sure they are OK and assisting them with anything they need help on. I have fun helping my younger sister create a fort, and making her laugh by telling her jokes or making funny faces whenever she is sad. She is young but quite a social butterfly, and it’s been hard for her not to be with her girl group. My older brother misses playing basketball and football with friends.
And it’s hard on me. I miss going out, but, mostly, I miss my grandparents. I call them once or twice every day. We video chat, too, which is funny because they’re not the type to use technology. We get cut off a lot. My parents have taken us to ride by and see them from afar. We’re happy to see them but sad we can’t go hug them, kiss them and do things like before ...
I try to ease my mind by indulging in my farming venture. This spring I started planting in my backyard. I have tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, eggplants, carrots, and cucumbers. I am not a professional gardener but I’m experimenting and learning different methods. My goal is to grow our own fresh fruit and vegetables because ... Why not? I’m encouraging others that now is the time to learn about all that. We don’t need to be a food desert if we all do as our ancestors did and tend to the land.
My parents still manage to buy, cook, and serve the less fortunate by distributing food, clothes, hygiene care kits, wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves and donated masks to help stop the spread of this awful virus. I help my parents by putting together all that’s needed to distribute platters for the homeless around our city. I like to play their favorite songs that my father introduced me to and I ended up enjoying oldies: songs like “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang, “September” by Earth Wind & Fire, and “Smile” by Kirk Franklin.
I’m thankful my family is well because we have had 30 relatives, friends, and community members pass away from this virus. The losses seemed to be back-to-back. I try my best to remain positive that this too shall pass and we can go back to a somewhat normal life, although this has rocked us so hard nothing will truly be normal again. May all this that has occurred, good and bad, change us all for the better.
by Ellie Tyler, age 16
When corona was first talked about, I’ll admit I thought it was a joke. I thought it would be treated like Ebola. People would make jokes; it’d be talked about, but I’d never have to experience it firsthand. I know that’s ignorant, but I have become so accustomed to seeing chaos on the news that I just became numb to it.
A little bit into quarantine I started to think a lot. The skeletons in my closet began to overwhelm me. I came clean to my friends and family about a lot of things. I wanted to just be honest and get everything off my chest, but with that came some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. All I wanted to do was lie around. For a day or two I could barely stomach food. I couldn’t sleep alone for days. I’m pretty sure my little sister slept with me every night for seven or eight days.
Even when my friends and family reassured me that they weren’t upset with me, I still felt an immense amount of guilt. At this point I’m doing a lot better. I just want to grow as a person and be the best me I can be. Nothing feels worse than saying you want to die and not knowing if you mean it or not. It was like I was teetering on the edge, between being stable and going insane. So yes, I am very grateful I was able to get everything off my chest, but I hated that feeling. It was a result of being stuck inside and not being able to keep busy.
Quarantine just feels like such a hindrance in my life. I understand it isn’t all about me, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t suck. I had an acting class and vocal coaching coming up in April that I was very excited about. I turn 16 in June and don’t even know if I’ll be able to celebrate. I am supposed to go to camp in July and August. I wanted to apply to work at a café when I turned 16. Who knows if I will be able to do any of it.
In general, my life has come to a halt. I was pretty isolated this school year. All my plans had kept me going. I have stuff to look forward to now, plans for after quarantine and things I’d like to learn more about in general. I’m just ready for this all to end. I want my life back. I know I’ll appreciate the things I took for granted a bit more.
by Anthony Wallace, age 12
“The virus is deadly,” my grandma said as she watched the news, “and it is spreading quickly.” Her stern words best described the situation that was about to come. At first, I wasn’t alarmed. I didn’t really believe what she was saying. But after she showed me what was going on across the world ... it was a whole different story. Even before things hit the fan, the coronavirus pandemic was changing me — and I didn’t even realize it. I was scared, and so was my family. That unpleasant feeling was just the beginning.
After the virus came the shutdown, and it soon became clear that the world was being hit with more than just a virus. Hot on the tails of the pandemic came fear and animosity. Before the coronavirus, everyone I knew was happy and stayed close, but after this drastic change, people generally stopped communicating. Fear was here, and you could see it in people as they walked the streets, and with that dread was hostility. It changed my outlook on life, because knowing that there is a pandemic that is very deadly is terrifying. Even worse was the fact that learning from this pandemic can be difficult, especially for someone my age who doesn’t understand it so well. Altogether it left me heartbroken. But still, knowing that things may be like this for a while, I tried to live normally the best I could.
So ... What Now?
Even though I’m young, I quickly learned how to adapt. Now, the longer quarantine goes on the more I get used to it. While some things had drastically changed, such as school taking precautions to keep everyone safe by putting everything online, things aren’t as dire as I thought they’d be. I can’t do everything I used to do before quarantine, but I still get to have fun regardless, and that’s important in such a trying time. I’m doing great in school, I get to play basketball and eight-ball pool anytime, and I get to spend more time with family. So, while there is a pandemic going on, this quarantine has taught me that we can adapt to trying times quickly, and that people should still be appreciative, taking care of ourselves and others, especially the ones closest to you.
by K. Rob, age 16
I’d imagine when most people are quarantined, they’d be afraid. What’s going to happen? Am I going to survive? What if I get the rona? Everybody’s panicking and buying up all the food and toilet paper, food they’re not even gonna eat, toilet paper they’re gonna waste on popping pimples and cleaning toilets.
And the crazy part is, at some point in time, I imagined myself to be one of those people! But this was before the pandemic. Now, being in the middle of it, with wave two supposedly on the rise, I gotta say ... I thought this would be more ... interesting.
Like, life hasn’t changed a whole lot, other than stores closing earlier and free bus rides, so I can’t complain, I have food and a roof over my head. Like — the biggest thing I have to worry about is my summer, and there’s almost no chance of that happening anyway. So while I’m not really ... concerned about the virus, I still have a problem with it.
Why? Corona is restricting worldwide movement, and as a teenager who’s turning 16 in less than a month, any kind of rules or restrictions are something I can honestly say I hate. I was looking forward to this summer and those “ayy, 16, summer, 2020, now i can actually do stuff " type vibes, but all I’m getting is “stay in the house, better yourself, and hope you don’t die.”
Corona, to me ... has been a huge, fat, firetruck-red “Get It Together” sign in my face. Like I don’t have 40 other people telling me all the rest of the time. But it’s cool. People are saying we’re entering a new age in time, like we didn’t already create new genders, so now, that we’re really about to evolve ... like, globally? It’s kind of overwhelming. But I’m cool with that.
I don’t even know what to think about corona: I just know that the world is confused, and I’m sitting here eating Doritos, like nothing’s gonna happen, and I’m cool with that. It’s a myriad of different feelings in my body, and I’m cool with that, I feel like regardless of the world around me, I’m just cooling.
Maybe I don’t even care if I get it
Maybe I’m scared of the future
Maybe I’ll go outside one day without my mask
Maybe they’ll put 5G towers in the sky and mess up my brainwaves
Maybe everything’ll be fine
At least I have more time to do what I want
Maybe I’ll come out of this thing three times better.