Student Voice: The Joys of Reading in Quarantine. At a Time Dominated by Technology, I’m Getting Lost in Books
In the realm of global pandemics, COVID-19 is said to have arrived at an opportune time in the course of history.
Initially, I was in agreement with this sentiment. I could spend countless hours watching television, engaging in daily FaceTime calls with friends, and pursuing my studies, all while avoiding unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus. This period of "break" seemed like an unexpected blessing. I was able to relax, excel academically, and maintain a semblance of social interaction through texting, calling, and sharing self-portraits on social media. Modern technology became the silver lining amidst the quarantine, or so it seemed.
However, my perception of this idyllic pause in the school year took a melancholic turn just one week into the lockdown, when my grandmother’s partner, whom she had been with for nearly 14 years, succumbed to lung cancer. Due to the pandemic, new regulations implemented in Los Angeles restricted the number of people who could attend a funeral, leaving my family to grieve in solitude. I had never experienced the process of mourning someone I held so dear. Suddenly, my spirits plummeted, and an escape from this grim new reality and my isolated existence within the confines of my home became a dire necessity. I yearned for utopias and alternative universes where the coronavirus had never infected humanity, and where the man I considered my grandfather would still engage in conversation with me. It was during one of these daydreams that an epiphany struck me, propelling me out of my bed with a newfound determination: I would immerse myself in books.
In the morning, I meticulously compiled a list of novels written by renowned authors that I had yearned to read. I added timeless tales that had been published long before my existence to my online shopping cart, and as soon as the books arrived, I eagerly delved into their pages. Although these literary works did not transport me to genuine utopias, they provided a respite from current affairs. I found myself chuckling at Lady Susan’s coquettish behavior and shuddering at the tragic fate of Dorian Gray. Through these captivating characters and their imagined worlds, I was able to envision a brighter future instead of dwelling on the present or pining for the past.
I was astounded by how disenchanted I had become with technology during this "corona-cation." Aside from the necessary hours dedicated to schoolwork, which occupy a significant portion of my day, I now find myself enthralled by the written word, clutching a book as I absorb the words crafted by historical authors. Rarely does my leisure time involve a computer, unless it is utilized for writing or studying, and my phone has become noticeably less utilized. Admittedly, my communication with real-life acquaintances has suffered. I still engage in daily conversations with friends, but the topics of discussion seldom extend beyond school and the virus. As peculiar as it may sound, my fictional companions provide a more captivating source of news and conversation. I hold deep affection for my real-life friends, but during a period when we cannot venture outside, meet new people, or have new experiences, engaging in stimulating discussions becomes arduous. Who would have thought that paperbacks would become my salvation in a time dominated by the internet?
Through these novels, I am exposed to individuals living fervently, falling in love, and navigating the intricacies of challenging circumstances. Traveling the world is not deemed forbidden but rather encouraged, and illness is not the prevailing cause of death. The act of holding hands is not taboo, but rather expected, while gathering in large groups each evening is considered ordinary. The lives these characters lead transport me back to the months preceding the quarantine, and suddenly, rays of sunshine pierce through the cloud of despondency that had consumed me.
During my childhood, well before I possessed a cell phone, operated a computer, or had knowledge of any websites beyond YouTube, my days were consumed by books. The wonders of Harry Potter captivated my imagination, while The Mysterious Benedict Society instilled a sense of adventure. I attribute books with shaping my sense of humor, fostering my inquisitive nature, and so much more. These stories became the nourishment for my mind, which was constantly hungry for more. Friendships like those depicted in Ivy and Bean and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and seek out new connections, while still cherishing the companionship of lifelong friends. Additionally, Wonder taught me the value of not judging individuals based on their appearance and to exhibit kindness toward everyone. Gradually, my imagination waned, and the fire of curiosity flickered with diminished intensity. However, in the mere span of a few weeks inflicted by this pandemic, that youthful vigor has been rekindled, arriving at the precise moment when I needed it most.
The "Pandemic Notebook" is a continuous compilation of personal accounts written by students, describing their experiences living through the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have an idea or would like to contribute, please reach out to Executive Editor Andrew Brownstein at Andrew@The74million.org.
Talia Natterson, a sophomore at Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles, California, is a contributing writer for her school’s publication, Crossfire.
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