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Mehr Grewal, 13 Bellevue, WA

The Quarantine Generation: the World on Reboot–From the Lens of a Teenager

By Mehr Grewal, 13

I turned 13 on March 28th. My milestone birthday was spent in quarantine. A mightier contender took the spotlight away from me. COVID-19 decided to flex its muscles and turn the world around—a 13th birthday is no match. Family, friends and teachers had been building the excitement around this important landmark which would be a turning point in my life. Indeed, life has turned for not just me, but the entire planet! In fact, we have been forced to reboot, press the reset button and pause…

I am a 7th grader in Seattle, balancing schoolwork and a passion for community outreach, with a focus on mental health. I have used my writing, and voice, to raise awareness of mental health issues surrounding my peers today. I strive to initiate programs (like my campaigns “Teen Mental Health Cafés”, youth4positive communities) dedicated to the wellbeing of my peers. Through my work, I hope to impact my community positively. However, the night of February 28th, everything changed for me in Seattle. An invisible enemy invaded my city and decided to shake up our lives. Washington, and the rest of the U.S. quivered under the impact of COVID-19. A vibrant community is reeling under a storm as first responders (like my mother who is a doctor) grapple to save lives.

My perspective of the storm is from the lens of a teenager. As I see the amazing adults around me tackle the virus and provide essential services–doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, grocery store workers–I also see a new world emerging. I am compelled to a realization that my generation, which I now choose to call the “quarantine generation,” is charged with new responsibilities. We are being looked upon to rise up to new challenges. Unbeknownst to us, we will soon be the flag bearers of the NEW world.

Let’s take a look at history. Sir Isaac Newton, at home during the Great Plague epidemic of 1665-6, discovered the law of gravity as he observed an apple falling from a tree he was studying. The devastating Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which took 21 million lives worldwide, triggered research towards developing an influenza vaccine that helps protect us today. The polio epidemic of the 1920s sparked the invention and use of the ‘iron lungs’–ventilators as we now know them. This life saving device takes over the work of breathing from patients who are critically ill, keeping them alive. The AIDS epidemic that began in 1981, moving across the globe swiftly, sparked herculean investigation and experimentation, and in 2020 HIV is a treatable condition with patients living a normal life span and actually, a few patients being cured of the disease.

Conditions that seemed unsurmountable, that tried to crush the spirits of populations, generated revolutionary ideas, prompted innovations and triggered new discoveries. Adversity propelled the human mind to stretch and overcome.

Today, seemingly, the world is at a standstill and so are teenagers like me. We, the ‘IGens,’ a generation permeated by the mobile web and social media, often restless and anxious, and dealing with our unique emotional challenges, will develop the grit and determination needed to lead the world–thanks to the Quarantine.

I wonder when this is over, can I hope the world will emerge stronger? Will this lead to collective resilience?

Our generation is armed with the potential for hard work, respect for diversity, inclusion and social justice. Now, this quarantine is arming us with fortitude.

I see the birth of a New World–

I envision us, the youth, as changemakers in a New World post-COVID. I visualize us as leaders who will steer our communities, scientists who will push towards environmental sustainability, innovators who will find a way to provide universal healthcare, doctors who will find lifesaving cures and fight these contagions, artists who will enrich the lives of a hurting community, and–I see us restoring the harmony in the world.

As the world reboots, I will be ready with a new resolve to spearhead change as part of the Quarantine Generation.

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