Quarantine Wasn’t As Bad As I Thought
By Shazana Davis
This personal essay is about my experience with quarantine and how it impacted my gender identity.
It was March of 2019, and nearly the end of spring break, and I was dreading going back to school. Suddenly, my phone lit up with a message from my friend. “Did you hear? We get two weeks off school!” I rubbed my eyes, completely in shock. It felt like an answer to my prayers! Shortly after, I learned it was because of covid. I wasn’t especially phased by this, since information about covid was limited. However, everyone made it seem like the world was going to end. Nevertheless, the break was wonderful, especially since I finished all my school work expecting to go back right away. Little did I know those “enjoyable” two weeks would turn into a month, then a few months, then nearly two years.
When I graduated 8th grade, I was excited for the high school life. “I’ll be able to go to parties and make friends and wear makeup!” young, naive me thought. Freshman me thought highschool would be full of drama and romance, prep rallies and random dance numbers. However, I didn’t get the High School Musical experience I was hoping for. I instead found myself on the set of a zombie apocalypse movie. Everyone was sluggish, and even the blue walls seemed to dull with the mood of the students. Nothing exciting ever happened, besides the times we went on field trips, and when we had pizza for lunch on fridays. This only amplified once quarantine started.
I live in a pretty small house, with two other people – my mom and my sister. Anyone would assume that because I live in such a small house, I would’ve been annoyed all the time from being around my family a lot. Surprisingly, the opposite was true. I felt isolated in my house since we all usually stayed in separate rooms. I began to feel entrapped in the yellowish walls of my room. I even noticed little words and symbols in the popcorn ceiling. When you’re alone for a long time, you eventually run out of things to do besides think. I tried drawing, playing games, scrolling through tiktok mindlessly, and painting my nails in several different combinations. After a while, all I really could do was think.
I thought about a lot of things, such as how my classmates and friends were doing, what cats dream about, and how wifi works. However, something I wasn’t expecting to think about was my gender identity. Like any other teenager, I was on social media a lot. I constantly came across posts where people were talking about their own sexuality and gender identity, and how they knew. The more posts I encountered, the more I realized “wow, I can relate to a lot of this.” Around the same time, my friend texted me about how they were realizing similar things about themself. We ended up talking for hours about how we didn’t feel like our birth genders, and how there were little hints from when we were younger that made sense now that we realized we weren’t cisgender. The rest of quarantine was us experimenting with pronouns, and researching other gender identities that we may resonate with. Overall, I concluded that I identify simply as nonbinary, since there weren’t any terms that completely explained me.
Then, 11th grade came. Towards the end of summer break, we learned that we were going back to in-person learning. I was a bit sad to have to go back, since I got used to sleeping in and learning in my pajamas. Worst of all, I was planning on telling people I go by different pronouns, and was extremely nervous to do so. However, once we entered the school, I couldn’t find the right time to tell everyone, and I still haven’t to this day. It was strange that I went back to school a completely different person, and no one would even know. With time, I realized that what matters was that I am happy with who I am, even if no one knows or cares.
Something else that I learned through quarantine is that isolation can be beneficial. Even if I was miserable throughout quarantine, without it I wouldn’t be who I am today. I became more assertive, determined, and lenient towards myself. Plus, I learned toI enjoy the time I spend with people more than I did before, and how to enjoy my time when I’m alone.
This essay was supposed to be a submission for a contest that Girls Write Now was hosting, but I didn’t get to submit it. I started writing it during the workshop with Scholastic about writing award winning essays. Initially I had no idea what to write, and during the twenty minutes we had to draft I only got two words done. However, my amazing mentors for the day assisted me in writing an outline for the contest. It was a wonderful experience reflecting on my quarantine experience, especially since others may relate to it.
Shazana Davis is a junior in high school. They are a member of Justice League, a restorative justice program, Alliance Club and Illustrated Story Telling club. They love drawing, writing and reading. After high school, they hope to become an author that younger kids can look up to and to add some much-needed diverse representation to publishing.