A Dive Into the Void: Mental Health During Quarantine
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Half a year ago, before school moved fully remote, most Stuyvesant students would have chosen the conditions of quarantine in a heartbeat—the limitless free time, the glimpse of a semi-normal sleep schedule, and a slight escape from the seemingly endless rat race of tests, projects, and commuting.
Yet as the weeks wear into months, half-years, and days uncounted, the times of solitude run dry. Free time morphs into nothing more than time to kill. The new-and-improved sleep schedule translates to watching TikToks at six in the morning. The “escape” from the rat race is yet another never-ending path to be run—each day yet another piece of cheese to chase after, just around the corner.
For some, however, the enormity of the situation is lessened by everyday action. “I don’t really know what to say because quarantine has been weird for me,” sophomore Maggie Huang wrote in an e-mail interview. “I’ve been more or less fine during quarantine, but it’s also been hard to do something that’s actually productive, especially for school. With all this extra time, though, it’s hard not to worry about the future. So I’ve been trying to do something worthwhile with my time, really.”
Some have remained largely unaffected by quarantine. “I don't think quarantine has had any significant impact on my mental health,” an anonymous senior said. “Quarantine hasn't been too difficult for me, and that's mainly because, one, I'm lucky that my family has remained financially stable, and, two, none of my family members or friends have contracted the virus, as far as I know, thankfully.”
Others have greatly benefited from the wealth of free time. “My mental health has actually improved since quarantine,” sophomore Marilyn Shi said. “With school and extracurriculars going virtual, I’ve saved over a dozen hours weekly on my commute. I’ve taken interesting virtual classes that I would’ve never been able to learn pre-pandemic. I think I’m happier [and] more curious and have more freedom because of quarantine.”
Freshman Bill Jiang shares this sentiment. “I’ve had time to spend for myself instead of spending time on school or extracurriculars,” he said. “It’s been pretty relaxing, but sometimes it's really boring just being stuck at home. And I’m also sort of glad that Stuy didn’t decide to move completely on-site. Even if it’s part of the experience missing, I think learning at home, safe, rather than out there and risking it is better.”
At home, Stuyvesant students have pursued personal interests and hobbies. “I've got a stack of books to occupy myself with,” the anonymous senior said. “In particular, I’ve read ‘Blindess’ by José Saramago—it's about an epidemic of ‘white blindness’ that leaves everyone in a certain country blind, with no other effects and no mortality.”
Others have pursued interests unrelated to the current state of affairs. “I’ve discovered newfound passions including fashion, K-Dramas, gardening, and computer programming. I’m planting scallions and dragon fruit on my balcony,” Shi said.
Yet for some, individual pursuits lack the connection that spending time with friends and family provides. “I miss talking to friends,” Huang said. “It’s kinda awkward talking over messages because there’s no reason to just suddenly reach out to someone.”
Shi echoed this sentiment. “I think having a routine in times of uncertainty is comforting,” she said. “Being trapped at home for months has forced me to get creative with exercise and having fun. Early morning runs with family, volunteer work, and late-night karaoke on the balcony keep me happy.”
Yet for others, quarantine has been a different experience. “It’s really strange, in a way,” an anonymous junior said. “I would say the best word to describe quarantine for me is a void. Stuyvesant felt a bit like that, just the everyday grind and all, but being trapped at home all day… it’s like a part of me is empty. [It’s] like my inner monologue is gone sometimes. It’s nice and not nice because everything is simpler and less complicated, but it’s just a void; you can’t describe it, and it’s so large and never-ending.”
In astronomy, the void is defined as “the vast space between filaments—the largest, most seemingly infinite structures in the universe.”
The largest, most seemingly infinite structures in the universe. It’s like the rat race but with each pursuit untethered and autonomous. Perhaps the cheese around the corner is not in a day-by-day continuum—perhaps it is a maze of sorts, spiraling, with all sorts of possibilities.
What can you find, just around the corner?