NORTH METRO ATLANTA, Ga. — Along with hundreds of her classmates at Northwestern Middle School in Milton and hundreds of thousands of students across the nation, seventh grader Vanshika Singh has been forced to adjust to a “new normal” in which home is also school and interactions with friends have gone completely digital.

“Now, my days have been focused into Google Classroom assignments, endless searching on the TV, searching for a new hobby, and on extremely boring days, gazing off into my backyard hoping that one day I’ll be able to go beyond my wooden fence and busy neighborhood, and go back to my old, normal life,” Singh said. “But then I wonder, is this the new normal?”

Singh said she had not realized the social environment being in school afforded her until it was halted by the pandemic. She says her social time is now spent texting and calling people digitally, but those means of interacting do not give her the level of social satisfaction she desires.

She especially feels for those who have even less interaction. Prior to the pandemic, Singh said she and her family volunteered on weekends at a nearby Arbor Terrace assisted living center.

“Now I look at the news and see that the retirement homes are also undergoing quarantine,” she said. “And it breaks my heart, because the seniors can’t even have their family members visit them or have people from outside come in to entertain them. And all they can do is stay inside the building every day, hoping that they can see their family once this is all over.”

There are also the stories of those who are unemployed or homeless, Singh said. Wanting to help in some way, Singh asked her mother to donate funds to those is need, and she agreed to do so. Singh said she has always wanted to be a doctor and help people, and the pandemic has increased that desire as she watches medical workers risking their lives “to make sure that ours are still intact.”

Though middle school years are a mostly carefree time, the pandemic does still weigh heavy on those entering their teenage years.

“It’s not so bad to not leave the house to go shopping or go out to eat every once in a while, which has led me to believe that in these times we should all be close to our dear ones and care about our families,” she said. “It’s weird because there are days when I’m having the time of my life just staying at home and relaxing, but then there are the times when the discombobulated feelings of helplessness, boredom and loneliness plague my time alone.”

But, there are some silver linings.

“To my surprise, quarantine has also brought many good changes in my life, such as me trying to eat healthier, work out way more than I did before, and just change my lifestyle for the better,” Singh said. “Despite no apparent end of this virus in sight, I hope quarantine brings out the best in me, in society and in nature.”

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