Tips to Live By

My Quarantine Fatigue: Life as a Teenager During COVID-19

July 31, 2020

By Katie Karlson

The hours stretched into days as I lazed around the empty house. Sleeping in, home alone, and no one to tell me to turn down the TV. I thought to myself, "I could get used to this." But the two-week break came and went, classes moved online, my parents started working from home, and I got lonelier and more bored by the minute.

Problems arose when online classes started, and I realized I had done the majority of the work for the rest of the year over the extended spring break. On top of that, the new work barely took any time for me to complete — once again leaving me with nothing to do other than sit around.

Online classes were still stressful though, since teachers had to work hard to provide us students with an education that would cover the majority of the work we were supposed to learn in class. Needless to say, not all of my teachers did this, and I found myself worried and irritable.

My parents also added to this stress, since they were working from home and were frequently on phone calls. I didn't want to take online classes in my bedroom, so my dad and I competed for the kitchen space. If I was giving a presentation, he would be vacuuming or cooking loudly in the background. My mom, when she came downstairs, did the same. Likewise, when either one of them was on a call, I would be banging dishes or asking loudly for them to move so I could hear my class. We had many family discussions about "respecting each other," but throughout the remainder of online school, I felt anything but respected. My school stress and all of our irritable moods swirled to create the perfect storm — and many heated disagreements.

After 53 endless days, school ended and I was left with months to hopefully do something productive. Personally, other people motivate me to be better and work harder, and so just like any other extroverted only child stuck in the house would do, I did nothing.

Of course, there was a list of stuff I should be doing, such as:

  • SAT and ACT prep
  • My summer reading
  • My summer math packet
  • Physical therapy for my knee and shins
  • Reading for pleasure
  • Driver's ed
  • Starting to learn chemistry for next year
  • Extra Latin work (I refuse to do anything not required for that class — it's by far my least favorite)


Instead, I filled my days with screen time. And with each passing minute, school got closer and reality started to hit. I had let the days slip by as I stayed up until 2, 3 and 4 a.m. texting my friends, and then sleeping until lunch. Then, when I did wake up, I would spend the remainder of the day on my phone.

For a little while, when the coronavirus cases had lowered, my school allowed us to have cross-country practices in the morning, and we were planning on having school. Finally, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and my mood drastically improved. I had social interaction and other people to motivate me to run and be better. But just as quickly as we started practicing, the governor announced a spike in cases — and practices were canceled. I reverted back to being completely unproductive and dismal.

Besides other people, there's no bigger motivation than the fear of failure. Through many "discussions" that seemed more like arguments, my parents made it very clear that I was wasting my time, and that they were done trying to motivate me. "I have to let you fail in order for you to succeed," my dad said to me.

Still, to this day I'm struggling to find the motivation to do anything other than nothing. In my mind, online classes provided almost no mental stimulation, so there's no point in doing all of that work.

I signed up for an engineering class in the fall, but realistically, we won't be able to actually get hands-on and start a project remotely — so there's no point in working on that.

Until I've finished growing, my running injuries likely won't get better — so there's no point in doing my physical therapy.

I'm only going into sophomore year — so there's no point in studying for the SAT or ACT when I already have a very good PSAT score.

I'm a fast reader and I'll have a ton of time during online school to read — so there's no point in doing my summer reading now.

School doesn't even start for a few weeks — so there's no point in starting the math packet now, I'll forget it all.

The only thing I've actually been doing is driver's ed. Being trapped in the house makes me want to get out.

Every bad choice I've made to do nothing was — and to some extent still is — completely justifiable to me. The rational voice in the back of my mind is telling me to get out of this rut and do something, but some other part of me doesn't want to. I've lost all motivation. Despite being able to clearly picture the repercussions of doing no work and falling behind, I still can't seem to bring myself to do anything. Part of the reason is that most of the people I know aren't doing much either, and I've always been able to get by in school with minimal effort. Even if I do nothing until the day before online classes begin, I know I'll be able to get almost all of the required work done.

And that's where my problems start.

Quarantine made me realize that I've only ever done what's required. As a kid, my dad would have to force me to do extra math with him. I certainly saw the benefits of it, but by myself I was completely unmotivated. The instant something isn't mandatory, I don't want to do it — and this mindset brings me down in athletics and other aspects of my life.

Being a teenager during the coronavirus quarantine is the opposite of fun or enjoyable, and I feel many will agree that incentive is at an all-time low. But if you can try to use this remaining time to better yourself or do that one thing you've been putting off, I would say that's a quarantine well spent. Get ahead, and work to be better than you ever thought you could be.

So as I sit here writing this on July 28, 2020, with a mountain of schoolwork and college prep to do, I can say that this is the first completely optional thing I've done since March 13 — and I don't intend to make it the last.

About Katie
Katie Karlson will be starting her sophomore year of high school this fall. She loves waterskiing, her cross-country team, her cats, and yes, even her parents.

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