Column: Underclassmen, let’s beat the pandemic gloom

Tara Kapoor, Staff Writer

Juniors may be stressing over the effects of COVID-19 on their college applications. Seniors may be mourning their missed last-year-of-high-school experiences.

But sophomores? Freshmen?

Although the tragedy of not being able to see one another in person may feel excruciating, let’s be real. Unless you are in a home with an urgent medical or economic crisis, our “tragedy” is relatively insignificant. And compared to our fellow upperclassman, we have it easy.

True, many of our extracurriculars have been canceled. Spring break plans have largely gone down the drain, and summer vacation this year may not permit us to travel, flock to concerts or attend academic programs away from home.

But instead of falling into a lazy slump while self-quarantining, we can take advantage of this time.

We should take advantage of this time.

We can achieve more than just lounging around our houses, finishing optional assignments in a haste only to resort to binge-watching shows for hours on end.

Our parents are likely exhausted from the constant limitations bestowed upon them under the weight of the virus. Especially taking care of the entire family under one roof, day in and day out. All while possibly working from home with constant distractions ringing through the hallways.

Adding to the burden, household chores and other home tasks must be taken care of without non-familiar assistance, such as cleaners or maintenance workers, due to social distancing.

Meanwhile, hospitals are overflowing with patients, with numbered doctors and medical staff begging for masks and supplies to effectively treat as many as possible while severely risking their own health.

And our main job? In many cases, it’s to stay home with absolutely no outside pressures. We are living in a suspension of reality, blessed with an invaluable gift — time.

So, what can we do?

Caring for at-risk or sick relatives is of prime importance, of course. As young people least susceptible to the virus, we are best suited to undertake this responsibility and keep our families healthy.

The community is in dire need of medical protective gear as well, accepting donations in the form of masks, disinfectants and other PPE to assist doctors in flattening the curve of the pandemic. Taking time to collect and donate any extra supplies around the house can be instrumental in saving patients in need in nearby hospitals.

Maybe begin to regularly partake in jobs around the house. Washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, placing grocery orders and cooking meals are only a small handful of countless tasks all too crucial during this catastrophic period of time.

Aiding others — family, friends or the community at large — will not only alleviate their imminent worries and contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19 as a whole, but evoke a sense of pride and purpose in yourself.

Trust me, any and all effort will be well worth it, both short and long term.

Still have extra time? Our free days offer boundless opportunities to better ourselves as well, especially coupled with the tremendous span of the Internet.

Online videos cover every topic imaginable, from learning a new language on Duolingo to testing two-minute cookie recipes from BuzzFeedTasty to understanding the science behind sleep through a TED Talk. Or even study a new topic on Khan Academy, if that intrigues you. Before the craziness of the dreaded junior year commences, maybe get ahead on the SAT prep you have been meaning to start.

We have weeks to dive in and discover subjects we’re passionate about. Not to say that the shelter-in-place order is a “break” — we have online school work to focus on, and an abundance of productive activities to fill up our days.

Ask teachers questions about challenging concepts that you were too afraid to ask about in person. If a problem is confusing, the textbook, explanatory videos or consultations with your teacher are always options for support.

Now that the letter grade haunting every assignment has been removed — at least temporarily — you can learn material that interests you. 

Read books. Smell the flowers in the backyard and gaze at the sunny California skies. Meditate (or at least attempt to). Have a dance party with siblings, play a board game, call your grandparents, bake cookies or catch up on lost sleep.

And to future classes (that’s you, 2023 and 2024), you can do the same. Make the most of every moment in these unprecedented circumstances.

Be thankful. Take time for others, and for yourself. Before you know it, the craziness of life will take over once again.