[OPINION | Youth] A 17-year-old’s thoughts on happiness during the pandemic

Sophia Azcona
[OPINION | Youth] A 17-year-old’s thoughts on happiness during the pandemic
'I'm the type of person that feels more comfortable at school than at home.... But now that school and home are in the same place, my mind, heart, and soul are confused.'

Experts say we are entering a new normal. We have to prepare for new ways of life. We won’t see our streets, schools, coffee shops, and malls the same way again. My friends and I have become anxious: our late teenage years – no, our whole lives – will be different. This pandemic has made me rethink life and death through a whole new perspective. 

Politics. Poverty. Corruption. Death. The world is suffering and over a million have died.

This pandemic has taken away so many opportunities from us, too. It has lent us the mindset that to hope for anything at all only leads to disappointment. All we’ve been doing these past 8 months is wait and stall until we can fully experience life and be free again. We try to keep our personal demons at bay, but when we try to heal our invisible wounds, they only seem to grow deeper. 

As if this wasn’t enough, we students also have to take online classes. I admit that privilege has a great hand in this, but I also admit that none of us were ready. A quarter into the school year, we still aren’t ready, to be honest. I was hopeful at first. I was hopeful, curious, excited, and intrigued. However, heading towards our second semester is a steep and lonely climb. I’m the type of person that feels more comfortable at school than at home. If I could’ve slept at school, I would’ve. But now that school and home are in the same place, my mind, heart, and soul are confused. 

Philosophy in a pandemic

Philosophy may be the last thing on anyone’s radar these days. When someone speaks of the pandemic, only the worst-case scenarios immediately come to mind. But there’s a philosophy behind everything that we do: our feelings associated with things or people, our freedom of choice, our decisions to take on certain attitudes.

My personal philosophy helps me get through the hard times, but the lack of physical affection, spontaneity, and connection with teachers and friends does take a big toll. Still, I constantly remind myself that no matter how stuck I may feel, I still have my inner freedom. The freedom to yearn, to wish, to dream. 

The key is to embrace your thoughts. Thinking more has been one of the few benefits of being stuck at home. I have been thinking, or should I say, philosophizing a lot.

Think of your mental concentration as a point on a graph. It starts at a high point then gradually falls. This is why when we study we have to have breaks, so that the graph goes up again. It will go down again when we return to studying, but then we can push it up again. I have applied this idea to what we’re experiencing, through working out, baking, painting, reading books, watching Netflix, learning how to drive, playing sports, etc.

However, with school now taking up most, if not all of a student’s time, it’s different. We need to submit videos, which require editing skills; we are prone to mis-clicks and carelessness in our online quizzes; we feel pressure whenever we hear Google Classroom notifications; we face only disheartening and upsetting news on social media; and of course, we suffer through back pain and eye strain. Usually, hanging out with friends would be my source of happiness and inspiration in spite all of these, but that’s been taken away as well. The graph just keeps falling, with small “ups” between wide and steep “downs.” 

But the thing is, that point in the graph never reaches zero. It never reaches the bottom line. It still keeps going forward because of the “ups,” no matter how small or insignificant they appear to be. 

That’s how we reach our dreams. Despite hardships and sacrifices, we keep going. We push ourselves because, after all, we are the masters of our own destinies.

Happiness is something we build for ourselves. We choose what our “ups” are. We choose how much they affect our “graph,” too. Stick to what makes you happy, make it your guiding light. Hope for better days and celebrate small wins. 

Our fear of failure sometimes makes us push ourselves a bit too much, but we shouldn’t let this fear misguide us. Outweigh your fear of something bad with the love of something good. Love the fact that when all of this is over, it’ll be like looking at your city from a tourist’s point-of-view. Love the fact that you learned something new this quarantine. Love the fact that when you see your friends again, you’re going to hug them really tight for a really long time. Love the fact that you’re loving yourself a bit more every single day. Love the fact that your graph will soar really high someday. Love the fact that your waiting and stalling will be worth it. 

The biggest adventure you can take is to strive for the life you’ve always wanted. The pandemic definitely hindered this, but don’t let it consume you. A crisis won’t last forever, but your dreams will. –

Sophia Dominique B. Azcona, 17, is a Grade 11 student at St John’s Institute, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. She is the head feature editor of her school’s newspaper and enjoys reading and watching Broadway musicals during her free time.

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