Sense of self challenged

Quarantine feeds mental health issues

Who would’ve known this is where we’d end up? Quarantined from friends and family, our social lives completely diminished, leaving so many of us depressed.

Teachers are discouraged as they don’t know how to encourage their students. Seniors don’t know if they get to graduate alongside the people who have helped shape them. Middle schoolers wonder if they’ll get to physically meet and go on new adventures with new people. Elementary school students don’t even know how to properly use a computer yet and are bored staring at a screen for hours, unable to interact with the people behind the screen.

Kit Carson 7th grader, Tiki Perez explains that, “being around people to tell me what we are doing helps me understand a lot.”

As humans, we are social beings. We create ourselves and learn through others. Especially as students in school. We’re persistently learning new things about ourselves and the world and constantly introducing each other to new things as we discover more.

“A great deal of my motivation is derived from my relationships with friends,” senior Elijah Berry says, it “escalated my loneliness and depression in the beginning and now just made me numb.” Some of us would’ve never pursued or found things we love without someone introducing it to us. And some of those things, they stick with us, we find purpose in them, they give us a spark, they resonate with us. In essence, people, relationships, connection; it gives us purpose.

So what happens when that sense of purpose is taken away? What happens when a pandemic forces us into quarantine and stay away from loved ones? Well, we start to lose our sense of self. Getting out of bed every morning gets harder and harder. There’s less to look forward to. We don’t have after school clubs or rallies or field trips to encourage us to get through the next day. Instead, we stare at a gray screen of names and a teacher trying to engage their students.

Without people, without the spark that people give us, life is discouraging. A research conducted by bestselling authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter, PhD, on well-being reveals that on average, we need up to six hours of social interaction in a day for a “robust sense of well-being” And now the majority of that social interaction isn’t, and can’t be physical.

As students, we rely on school for interaction. That interaction gives us a sense of identity. We try new styles, pick up different lingo, date different kinds of people, break different rules. We do and try new things in an attempt to figure out who we are, sometimes deeply connecting to new things and therefore growing as a person. That feeling of growth and the discovering of self identity and the confidence that it brings, has been lost.

School is supposed to be so much more than learning. It’s supposed to be about laughing with your friends in the halls, rebelling, taking risks, making cheesy prom signs for a significant other, getting a hug on a rough day. It’s about the experiences we have with each individual who might cross our path on campus. It’s about the things we learn from those experiences. It’s about learning what we like and don’t like. It’s about growth and self discovery. And distance learning? Distance learning has made school no more than the subjects we are being taught.

School made some of us feel like we were truly a part of something. A friend group, a club, a project. It gave us purpose. For some of us, we’ve lost that sense of purpose, the feeling of identity, the sense of self. As every day passes, melting into the next, the same gray screen full of names, the same house, the same room, the same people, the same agonizing vortex of repetition that this pandemic has sucked us into, makes it harder each day to crawl out of bed as we find less and less meaning in each day.

We’re human, we need people. We need purpose. It’s no longer about school or the work we’re being given, it’s about struggling to redefine our purpose.