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Lauren Cseh

Grade: 12

Bay Village High School

Instructor: Erin Beirne

Surviving Quaranteen

Personal Essay/Memoir

Surviving Quaranteen

March 13, 2020. I hear my principal's muffled voice on the PA system, "Due to the substantial spread of Covid-19, we will be taking three weeks off of school and switching to asynchronous learning." That whole week, I heard of other schools closing, so it didn't come as a shock when mine did the same. When I left school that day, I heard people cheering, they were so excited for an early, month long spring break. It was sunny outside, you could feel the crisp, cool air hit your face when the door swung open. You could tell spring was on its way. It felt like the weather before a hurricane, or the beginning of a horror movie when everyone is happy, but that night, a storm bigger than anyone was expecting hit harder than anyone could have ever prepared for.

My friends and I couldn't wait. We could sleep in every day, do school whenever we wanted, and hang out all the time. I soon discovered we had been deeply mistaken.

"MOOOOOOOM, can I go to the mall with my friends?"

"Do you want to get sick and die?"

My mom NEVER said no to me when I asked to hang out with my friends. In a matter of hours, the life I knew for 15 years had changed completely. My softball season had been canceled, school was online, and I couldn't see my friends for God knows how long. I went days without leaving my bed, everyday I wore black sweatpants paired with my favorite Beastie Boys t-shirt I found at Goodwill and my hair in a messy bun. I would make my room messy just to clean it again because I had nothing better to do. And somehow, with all this extra time on my hands, my schoolwork was not getting done. I would open my Chromebook and just stare. My mind was blank. My eyes would fill heavy with water as I would force myself to read my APUSH textbook. When I would read a sentence, all the information would just disintegrate out of my head. My eyes would follow along, but my brain would drift into oblivion.

My parents and I started fighting, which is something that never happened before. "I don't understand why you can't just do your work." "You're so lazy." "Do you want to end up like Tony?" My cousin, Tony, had just died of a heroin overdose a couple weeks into quarantine. My uncle went to jail when Tony was five, and his mom split when he was a baby, so he moved in with my grandparents when my dad was still in highschool. Christmas time reminds me of him. My dad has seven siblings who all have children, giving me 16 first cousins, Tony being the first of that generation. At our huge family Christmas party, he would dress up as Santa for all the little kids. I had never seen my dad cry before the day of Tony's funeral. I know my mom's words were supposed to motivate me, but they made me feel like a failure at 15.

I started having a lot of trouble sleeping at night, which made it hard for me to be motivated during the day. I would try to close my eyes around 11:00 p.m. in hopes that I would just fall asleep, but my brain wouldn't stop moving. How am I going to get into Ohio State if I can't even finish a math problem? When can I see my friends again? Why is it so hard for me to sit still? I would be awake on my phone all night scrolling through my Instagram feed, watch the sun peak through my blinds, fall asleep at 9:00 in the morning, and wake up at 5:00 at night. I saw a sleep therapist who asked me questions I didn't know the answers to and explained to me the medical terms for why this was happening which I didn't understand. All I wanted to do was fall asleep and wake up at 8:00 to have a productive morning, eat breakfast, and go on a walk. It took me a long time to realize the reason I couldn't sleep was because the stress of feeling like my parents and teachers were disappointed in me was taking over my body. It ran through my mind 24/7 to the point where I would eventually be so exhausted, I finally fell asleep.

After being in a black hole for what felt like eternity, I finally saw the light shining through, screaming my name, telling me to escape. That light was summer break. I could see my friends again, mandates were lifted, and cases were going down. We would go to the beach every day until our skin turned pink and drive around at night blasting Ariana Grande so loud our eardrums would ring. It felt like seeing the rainbow after a storm. Next school year would be normal. I could play soccer again and see my friends. Life was so good. I still had time to start over for my junior year.

When we had the option to attend school in-person or online through Zoom, my parents thought it would be best to have me continue school online. I had a new mindset about the school year. It was junior year. The most important year of high school. I told myself that there was no way I would fall into the same habits of last year because I knew how important this year would be. With that mindset I was fine with continuing online.

Yet, in the first semester of junior year, I fell into the same spiral as that past March. I was daydreaming during classes, not turning in work, and fighting with my parents. The biggest problem was that I didn't care. I had absolutely no motivation, and I wanted nothing to do with help from any of my teachers and friends who knew I was falling behind. I ended up finishing the first semester with all C's and D's and was barely eligible to play softball, the only thing I've ever excelled at.

On January 8, 2021, I woke up at 7:45 and logged onto Zoom by 7:50 like usual. About halfway through class, my teacher sent us into breakout rooms without any context. I was texting my friends in the class asking if they had any idea what was going on. My mom knocked on my door and came in. She told me there was something she needed to tell me, but she would tell me after class. I forced her to tell me because I couldn't stand the hesitation.

"Unfortunately, early this morning, Sabrina passed away."

I got that feeling you get in the back of your throat when you're about to throw up. My mom just held me, and we laid there for a while. All I could think about were white lab coats. Sabrina talked about how she wanted to be a Podiatrist. When we all laughed at her, she would always say, "Someone has to do it, and why not be me? Feet don't gross me out."

Sabrina's passing was a massive pill to swallow. I wish I could tell her what she was going through was normal. That mental health is something that should be talked about. Sometimes, I can still hear her laugh in my dreams and wake up to grab my phone and send her a text. She inspires me to be a better person every day. I always admired how good she was at making friends and how determined she was to improve at everything she did. She was so incredibly smart and good at school, which is something I envied because she was that girl in class who would get a 99% and complain about not getting 100% when everyone else didn't get above a C.

When I think about my one, short life, I don't want to look back at high school and think about how horrible my grades were, or how Covid-19 took everything away from me. I want to remember what I accomplished and how it made me feel. Second semester of junior year, I ended up getting A's and B's in all my classes, I hit my first ever home run in softball, and I learned to cherish every single moment with my friends. Even though Covid-19 took so much away from me, it made me so much stronger, smarter, and more independent than the 15 year old girl who experienced her last normal day of school on March 13, 2020.