Coronavirus, Education, Health

VOX ATL Teen: How I Was Able To Improve Myself During Pandemic

"On my first day of classes, it was fun being able to see everybody on Zoom,” writes Kayden Skeete. “But as time went on, the excitement that I felt in the beginning of quarantine began to fade. I began to lose motivation, miss assignments and turn in late work. I was struggling.”
"On my first day of classes, it was fun being able to see everybody on Zoom,” writes Kayden Skeete. “But as time went on, the excitement that I felt in the beginning of quarantine began to fade. I began to lose motivation, miss assignments and turn in late work. I was struggling.”
Credit Kayden Skeete / Courtesy of VOX ATL
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By Kayden Skeete

On that Friday back in March 2020 when we were let out from school, none of us expected for life to change as drastically as it did.

In my school, we were only expecting to be joining classes from home for three weeks.

But as time went on, the date for the return to in-person school kept getting pushed back until we were told that we would be at home for the rest of the school year.

Unlike many of my peers, I did not have the ability to be in the comfort of my own home. Right before the pandemic caused the country to shut down, a pipe broke in my house, and we had severe water damage.

We had to move our entire lives into a hotel for five months.

Losing Motivation

Although I was not in the comfort of my own home, I was still excited to be doing virtual classes for three weeks.

My commute to school in the mornings was almost an hour in the pre-COVID world, due to the extreme Atlanta traffic, so I was excited to be able to sleep in and be in a comfortable space while still being able to learn.

On my first day of classes, it was fun being able to see everybody on Zoom. Everyone was anxious to see how our classes would operate in the virtual world.

But as time went on, the excitement that I felt in the beginning of quarantine began to fade. I began to lose motivation, miss assignments and turn in late work.

I was struggling.

Reaching Out For Help

Some of my teachers began to reach out to me, concerned because of how I was changing as a student.

I have never been someone to miss assignments or turn in late work regularly, but it began to become more normal for me.

I knew I was losing motivation, but in the back of my mind, I knew that the school year was almost over, and if I slacked off, it would show in my transcript.

So I took responsibility and got in touch with my school counselor.

We met quite often and spoke about how I could approach the situation. We came up with some strategies that helped me to push through the school year and achieve the best grades that I could, given the circumstances.

The strategies included making schedules for when I was going to work on specific tasks, communicating with my teachers about my situation and asking for support when it was needed.

Receiving Support

As I was applying these strategies, I felt better knowing that I had a tremendous amount of support from my teachers who were very aware of how difficult the virtual world was becoming for everyone.

When I received my Semester Two report card for my sophomore year, I was taken by surprise to see that it was my best transcript yet. The strategies were difficult to implement and follow, but they definitely helped improve my scores.

As the summer went on, my family and I had to move to a different hotel, and this is when things drastically changed for me.

Becoming Isolated

I was not alone much throughout quarantine. One of my best friends lived with me for about three out of the five months that I was staying in a hotel with my family.

But once she left, quarantine became more difficult for me.

I had never refrained from being in contact with non-family members for that long. I’ve always had some sort of distraction in my life, like school, sports, band or something of that nature.

But at that point, I was my own company.

The first thing that I noticed is that I would sleep all day and have no motivation to get out of bed. I was working a part-time job, but on the days that I didn’t work, I would sleep until mid-afternoon and spend my day in bed with the lights off, all by myself.

An Honest Conversation

My mental health was worsening.

I had periods of time when I was so happy, and then there were other periods of time when I felt very sad, not wanting to do much. I was visibly upset for long periods of time, which wasn’t something that was normal for me.

My mom noticed my sadness and grew concerned. She sat me down to discuss what was going on, and I told her how I was feeling. Through our open and honest conversation, she was able to find a therapist for me to talk with in order to help me out of the mental space that I was in.

In August, I finally moved back into my house right before the new school year started. My school began fully virtual, and then later on, we had the option to return to in-person classes or remain virtual.

I chose to remain virtual, and I can say that this decision has changed me in a way that I am so grateful for.

Embracing The Positives

The beginning of the school year was a bit hectic, as I was trying to schedule tutoring sessions and after-school activities around my new school schedule.

But once I was able to settle into my weekly routine, my life began to shift.

Doing virtual school allowed me to have so much time to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do if I was at school in person.

I am able to go to tutoring three to four times a week after my classes. I am able to go to the gym during my free blocks. I am able to take lots of time for self-care and have so much more time to complete homework assignments.

Although there are some positives to my being enrolled in virtual school, there are also some downsides.

The first one being that online school can be lonely.

Being in my house for five days straight and not seeing many people has definitely been a change.

I do not have much interaction with friends that I used to be able to see every single day of the school week. I’ve drifted from many people that I used to talk to every single day.

It has been hard for me as I am not someone who likes drastic changes. But as time has passed, I have learned to accept our new reality and adjust to it.

Here’s How I Helped Myself

Through all of the difficulties that have been presented throughout the past year, I have become a person that I am extremely proud of, and I want to share with you all what I did:

  • I began seeing a therapist

There is nothing to be ashamed of when seeing a therapist.

Personally, I was hesitant to allow anybody to know that I was seeing a therapist because I thought people would see me differently. But as I continued to speak to my therapist about my struggles in life, I realized that therapy is not anything to be ashamed of.

It is something that helps people to get their thoughts and emotions out with someone they can confide in.

I am someone who can tend to bottle up my emotions, but therapy has helped me to release my thoughts and emotions while coming up with solutions to any problems or dilemmas that I may have.

Therapy has helped me to learn more about myself, mature as a person, work on my problem-solving skills and learn more about how to deal with my emotions.

Therapy is the best option for me personally, but it is not the only way to get your emotions out.

Journaling, songwriting, meditation or even talking to yourself are great ways that you can let out your innermost thoughts and feelings, without the worry of not being able to confide in someone.

  • I started going to the gym 

I am someone who used to be very athletic.

I played many sports up until school got to be more serious, so I chose to stop and focus on my grades. After I quit, I noticed that my body began to change.

I lost weight due to the loss of my muscle mass, and I wanted to be able to regain some healthy weight in order to be able to do some of my old sports whenever I have free time.

While my motivation for going to the gym was to rebuild my strength, I did not realize many of the other benefits of exercise.

After each workout, I felt so accomplished.

It is also a great method for stress relief, and I really began to notice how much more productive I was after I got back into the gym on a regular schedule.

Getting in some exercise, whether it was a light jog or more intense strength training, allowed me to review so many other benefits than the one I was initially looking for (rebuilding my strength for sports).

  • I started setting goals 

Through quarantine, I began to lose sight of all of the things I wanted to accomplish. In order to combat that, I began setting a tangible list of goals on the first day of each month.

Goal setting is a great strategy for motivation.

As I became consistent with creating my lists of goals, I noticed a great spike in my motivation to reach those goals, due to the fact that each set of goals is leading me to my biggest goal — to get accepted into my dream college.

Now when you’re reading this, you may think that my list of goals is purely academic.

However, this could not be further from the truth.

When I write my list of goals, I focus on a few academic goals, a few goals for my extracurricular activities and some goals surrounding self-care.

Self-care is the basis for a successful month of reaching goals, so focusing on your mental health is key.

I try to prioritize doing this. It helps me get in the right mindset to be able to achieve my academic and extracurricular goals. Also, what’s important to remember is that if I don’t achieve all of my goals that month, that’s OK.

What matters is knowing that I at least tried my best, and I will modify the next month’s goals in order to make them more tangible.

  • I focused on self-love 

Lastly, I have put a lot of work into focusing on self-love.

During quarantine, our connection to the world has consisted of our technology and social media. And when you spend so much time on social media, it can be easy to compare yourself to others. This is something that I have struggled with throughout quarantine.

I found myself comparing my appearance and happiness to others, but what I didn’t realize until recently is that what you see on social media is often only the surface.

Social media does not reflect a person’s true identity and their struggles.

What really made me realize this is when I took my own social media into consideration. My social media platforms are not a reflection of my insecurities or struggles in life.

In order to start working on self-love, I began focusing on things such as my skin and the health of my hair because these are two aspects of myself that are very important to me.

I made sure that I was taking care of my skin and my hair every single day. I followed a regimen that I created for myself.

What I found was that those periods of time where I was practicing self-care made me appreciate myself and my uniqueness so much more.

Taking time to care for yourself is so important. It allows you to see your unique beauty, and it can help to remind you that you are you for a reason.

I hope that you find some of my strategies useful in making quarantine a bit of a more enjoyable time for you!

Kayden, 17, attends the Atlanta International School in Buckhead. She is an activist and journalist.

This story was published at VOXATL.org, Atlanta’s home for uncensored teen publishing and self-expression. For more about the nonprofit VOX, visit www.voxatl.org.

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