Observations from Quarantine

Quarantine is affecting us in many ways, leading to: unplanned haircuts, the “Animal Crossing” craze, a change in what media we consume, and late work.

Observations+from+Quarantine

Sydney Gager, Editor

Why Hair Changes are Occurring

As I dyed my hair hot pink, I couldn’t help but wonder why the sudden surge of extreme, self hair cuts and dyes. Now, me dying my hair wasn’t that unusual–I’ve done pink, blues, greens, and purples in the past–but I had one friend who cut herself bangs and another who had dyed her hair for the first time. What was it about quarantine that was making everyone change their hair?

Could it be all the free time? Well, maybe. We’re all stuck at home, no one will see us anytime soon. These two factors definitely add to the desire to change our hair recklessly, but I think there’s another reason that hair is being chopped, shaved, and dyed.

We’re in a permanent state of panic, the world’s future uncertain and for many it seems like there’s less hope with each passing day. We have no control over the government or the coronavirus or even how much homework we get. We’re in pajamas, sitting around our houses for most of the day. It’s not so much that we want to feel pretty–although that does play a part–but more that we want control over something. While usually we can control our daily lives, now we are stuck inside instead. We don’t even have the energy to change our outfits, so instead we exert control over our haircuts. While this can be fun and exciting, it’s important to consider if this hair change is something we’re really ready for. Do you really want a bob? Or do you just want to be a dramatic teenage protagonist for a little bit? 

The next time you have the urge to chop off your hair, pause and find another way to have control over your life. Redo your room, put on a fresh pair of sweatpants, or make some other small change. Or maybe just change your hair–I mean who’s going to see you?

 

Why we Pass the Time the Way we Do

Now another thing I’ve noticed is the different ways we handle our freetime. For AP Lit we read an article explaining why we’re drawn to apocalyptic stories right now and I was surprised. For me–in typical avoidant fashion–TV and all other media has been about ignoring reality. I’ve been rewatching sitcoms and kid TV shows (although is “Avatar: The Last Airbender” really a kid’s show? . . . I digress) to bring as much comedy and distraction into my life. But some people are using media such as apocalyptic stories to allow themselves to feel their fears surrounding the coronavirus without actually addressing them. This is (in my completely unqualified opinion) actually a smart way to address reality, without becoming overwhelmed by reality. 

And this difference in coping isn’t just apparent in whether we’re preferring to watch horror or comedy; it becomes clear in conversation. Lots of people want to talk about the numbers–how many people are dead, whether illness rates are increasing or decreasing, etc.–some people want to talk about how our world might change, and others don’t want to talk about the virus at all. Now, to be well-adjusted we should probably find some balance of the three. It’s important to stay educated without being saturated in upsetting information. Finding positive outcomes for how our world might change after this pandemic is a good way to spin the situation. And sometimes, talking about something else is necessary to keep our spirits up. 

But all of this isn’t just an observation. It’s also a lesson. If you’re bumping heads with your family members, consider how they may be coping with coronavirus. Are they being cavalier? Maybe they don’t feel comfortable discussing the facts because the reality scares them. Whatever it may be, it’s important to consider how best to coexist with as little conflict as possible. Whether that means discussing your feelings–hey maybe you’re being silly to hide that you’re upset–or letting others be oblivious–yeah, let’s talk about this video game because I’ll support you in your coping–is up to you and your situation.

 

“Animal Crossing”

Now, can I discuss new societal norms without bringing up “Animal Crossing?” I mean everybody is playing it. And if you’re not playing it, you’ve seen pictures of your friends playing it. (I’ve even come across comics about the characters within it). I don’t have any Nintendo device to play “Animal Crossing” on, but I think I understand the allure. Not only is “Animal Crossing” a welcome distraction (see avoiding reality), but it also gives us a chance to do many things we can’t. Your little animal (or person? I honestly don’t know) talks to other people on the island(s), allowing you the social interaction we’re all craving. You get to administer some control (without chopping off your hair) by designing your island and decorating it however you want. You even get to go outside and walk around in wildlife within the game, which is hard to do right now without worrying about how close other people may be. So, while I don’t have the game, it seems to me that the popularity stems from it being a healthy way to distract, feel in control, and do some things that reality doesn’t allow at the moment. 

 

Why (most) Teachers are Accepting Late Work

As overachievers become average students and average students either become overachievers or slackers, it’s worth wondering why school seems so different. For most of us, school has become harder because our motivation and time-regulation skills have disappeared. Some combination of not displeasing teachers, pleasing teachers, getting good grades, and learning motivates most students. The students who are suddenly succeeding are the ones who can truly learn from home–they know how to teach themselves and find it easier to go at their own pace. However, most of us are struggling. Add in the still developing prefrontal cortex that leads to us having no concept of time–especially without structure–most of us have no chance of keeping up. Next, considering the varying levels of fear, the possibility of exposed or even sick family members, and any pre-existing issues with school work, it’s no surprise that students are struggling. The most well-adjusted people are nervous, under-stimulated, and probably sad. Any students with mental illnesses are feeling depressed and anxious even more than usual. So it’s honestly a miracle if any work is turned in. Luckily, most teachers seem to understand this, but some seem to be under the impression that more free time means more time to be productive. When actually, for many, more free time means more time for panic and/or sadness, with a few stints of productivity in between. I hope teachers hear that others are waiving late penalties, but if they don’t then I hope my fellow students forgive themselves for any drop in their grades. It’s important to remember that we’re all trying our best. No one wants to slack off or miss assignments, but sometimes (especially during a global pandemic) it’s impossible to keep up. Maybe I’m just writing this because I’m trying to mediate my own guilt over slacking off in even my favorite courses, but my conversations with others indicate that many share my thoughts. So my advice (to myself and others) is to remember that what you’re feeling is normal and that while you should try to make-up your work, everyone knows that this is a crazy time. Just do your best.

 

So, what seems to be the overall takeaway from my observations? 

No matter what you’re doing, if it’s good, bad, or neutral, it’s probably related to the damage this pandemic is doing to our psyche. Whatever you do to cope is okay, as long as you make it through.