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Aryan Nair lives with his parents, Rakesh and Swetha, and younger brother in south London
I remember my parents talking to me when the virus was in China. When it began to spread to other countries, I was scared I was going to get it or that something else bad was going to happen, I don’t know what.
Lockdown made me feel really sad a lot of the time during the week but there was loads of happy stuff at the weekends: we had a pretend birthday party, we went to the woods a lot and to the zoo.
My parents were working pretty full-time during lockdown. I had a home-working schedule stuck to the wall and I tried to do it but once the novelty wore off, after a month or so, I used to look at it and just think, “Oh no!” I began to feel really annoyed by it and so my parents said I could give it up. I just played with my Lego. That was OK. I played with my Lego for hours.
There were some exciting things about lockdown: I liked doing Joe Wicks every morning, I watched Newsround and had fun online lessons with Role Models. I got really good at art too. I never used to draw before lockdown but I did an online course and now I’m amazing at it. We made up games we played over the garden fence with the kids next door. But mainly I had to just sit with my workbooks.
Lockdown got even worse after my little brother went back to nursery. I was really lonely then. It just didn’t feel normal to be all alone like that. I used to go and peek into my parents’ offices but they were always in meetings and it was really boring.
The day before I went back to school, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. The actual day of going back to school was much better than I’d dared to hope. I was going to a new school and everyone was so nice. None of us talked about lockdown. We didn’t even think about it. It was over.
I know that some countries have had a second or a third wave of the virus. I’m worried that we’ll get a second wave too because if we have to lockdown again, I will be really, really annoyed. I know now that there’s nothing to do during lockdowns and during winter, it’ll be even worse. I wouldn’t mind if it was after Christmas though, because I would have all my presents to play with. Although you get tired of presents after a while. Or they break.
Holly Ronicle lives with her younger brother, Noah, between the homes of her father, James, and mother, Emma, in York
It was exciting but sad too, when school ended, because I wasn’t going to see my friends. But it was fun doing home learning because it meant I could stay in my pyjamas all day. My mum is a teacher and my grandmother used to be a headteacher, so we got a lot of teaching. We had really full days with lots of projects. It was a fun way to learn but I missed school because I missed my friends.
I listened to the radio and read a bit of the newspaper if it was lying around. At first, I thought the whole virus thing just seemed so crazy: everything was affected by it. But then I got used to it and the fact that we had to stay in our house.
During lockdown, I started cycling round York delivering food parcels to people with my dad. It was really weird cycling along streets that are usually really busy. There were no cars and hardly any people.
Parts of lockdown were a bit sad. My mum was a key worker, so I had to stay with my dad more than usual and I missed her.
Two weeks ago, we had to self-isolate all over again. My mum had a cough and we had to stay inside until she had been tested. It was a bit crazy: we have a testing centre right near my mum’s home but they had no spaces, so she had to get a home testing kit. She sent it off on Wednesday lunchtime and didn’t get the results until 6.30am on Sunday. That wasn’t exactly the quickest of results but it turned out that she didn’t have the virus, so that was good.
It also made me realise, though, that I don’t want to be locked down again. We couldn’t even go out for walks while we were waiting for my mum’s test results and it was really boring. I don’t want to do that again.
Sanjana Parashar lives with her parents, Prasanjit and Shally, in Beckenham, Greater London, with one younger sister
I have gone from not thinking about politics at all before the pandemic to knowing the government doesn’t know what it’s doing. Boris Johnson isn’t listening to other people, not even the top scientists. He’s ignoring the consequences.
I don’t think any politicians are thinking properly. They’re not helping the country. They only start safety precautions after there have been a number of deaths. They leave things too late.
Ever since the pandemic, we’re really seeing the government doesn’t have any leadership skills. I think the government should look at other countries like Germany. I never used to think like this.
I was excited at first about lockdown because it meant I didn’t have to get up early for school but I quickly got bored and very lonely. I was just doing the same thing every day and watched way more TV than I would usually do. I also got sluggish because I couldn’t do exercise. I love swimming but all the pools were closed. I’ve forgotten how to do some of the things I learnt at swimming, like tumble turns. Because I haven’t taken exercise for so long, things exhaust me that didn’t used to be a problem – like at PE at school.
My brain slowed down too. I’m still slower at maths than I used to be.
I think the virus is really going to affect my future. I won’t be able to travel. I feel it’s really quite disgusting now, to be touching the things everyone else has touched, with all the germs. I never used to worry about things like that.
I was excited about coming back to school but also worried because I didn’t know how it would all work. But they took a whole day to explain it to us and they repeat the rules really often, so we all know what we’re supposed to be doing, which is good.
Since I’ve gone back to school, a few of the other children have had to go off to self-isolate because they sit in the front row and the teacher got the virus. I don’t understand that, because the whole class mixed together, so if the front row caught it from the teacher, then wouldn’t we have caught it from them afterwards?
The rules are inconsistent and that’s confusing. I’m not sure if that’s the school or the government. But if it’s the government, then it’s scary and a lot more serious because then the whole country is at risk.
Oliwia Charowska lives with her younger brother, Marcel, and her parents, Joanna and Adrian, in Bromley, south-east London
I was about to take my GCSEs when the pandemic hit, so I was already really stressed. When the rumours started that schools were going to have to close, all the teachers got anxious too. It was a period of great uncertainty. We hadn’t finished our curriculum yet, so the teachers started trying to rush us through it. We were being given quadruple the amount of work.
It was such a worrying time. You expect parliament and our leaders to take responsibility and take accountability. They’re supposed to be our role models. We depend on them for everything.
Instead, there was constant uncertainty in almost everything.
It’s worrying to realise that government doesn’t know what they’re doing. Sometimes it was difficult to differentiate between the House of Commons debates on TV and a children’s playground. They would lose focus about what they should be talking about; they just pointed fingers and were childish. It makes me feel really insecure and anxious that my future is in the hands of those grownups.
I was exhausted during lockdown in the lead-up to my exams. I was so drained and stressed – and then suddenly, they said there wouldn’t be any exams at all but didn’t explain what that meant. Would we have to retake? Do different exams? There was this constant leaving of people in the unknown and that was so scary.
I finally realised that I had to focus on the future and what I could do next. I began getting involved in the youth parliament and thinking about my A-level subjects. I took time out just to pause, adore and enjoy life. I read, listened to music. I reconnected with my family.
It wasn’t easy. I spent a lot of lockdown anxious and lonely but I did my best.
I think about the future a lot. It’s a constant anxiety. I don’t think this virus will go away easily and even if I go to university – will they even be open in two years? I’m going to face a world of mass youth unemployment.
We have to reform the way things work. The pandemic has really opened some people’s eyes and shone a light showing that we have to change. We need a new way to move forward and create a better and more sustainable world for everyone.
Bethan has eight siblings and moves between the homes of her mother, Serena, and her father, Dylan, in Llanarmon-yn-lâl, north Wales
My dad owns his own property business and does gas and plumbing too. My mum has health problems, so she can’t work. I was doing my A-levels when the pandemic hit.
Lockdown was really stressful: I wasn’t sure what was happening with my studies; I didn’t know if I was going to be able to sit my exams or not.
I have OCD, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, so I found it really hard to cope with the uncertainty. I would often sit in the front room all day, doing nothing. I’d avoid seeing my friends. My saving grace was my little sister: I took her on walks and did arts and crafts with her.
I couldn’t sleep though, so I was constantly tired and my OCD got worse. Because there was nothing to distract me, I would spend hours rearranging my room. It was exhausting.
When my A-levels came though, I initially got two Cs and an E. Then the E became a D, and then it became a C.
Fortunately, I wasn’t set on going to university, so that wasn’t a major issue. Also, I was feeling so negatively about myself by that point that I had believed I was going to fail them all anyway.
Lockdown was harder because my boyfriend was caught in Ireland, so I couldn’t get any hugs or talk to him. I was alone. I was living in a family but feeling really alone. Those were confusing emotions to have.
If lockdown had continued, my confidence would have been broken to a point where it would have been very difficult to rebuild it.
The world has always been an insecure place for me but it’s so much worse now. I have to find a way to get through this – to be able to get to a place of normality – but every day is a rainy day at the moment.
There are good things. Last week I got a job as a care support worker, and that job should be secure even if we have to shut down again. Caring for others gives me confidence in myself but I’ve lost joyfulness in my life. My friends have dropped away. We were going to go on road trips this summer and do all these things together before we went our separate ways but we lost all that. Those were going to be the experiences that would keep up together, and they didn’t happen.
Jack Payne is from Sea Mills in Bristol, where he lived with his mother, Tracey, and brother and sister. He now lives in a student hall in Clerkenwell, London
I’m the first generation of my family to go university, added to which, I don’t come from an area where going is a usual thing to do, so it means a lot to me that I’m here at LSE studying government and philosophy.
My mum is long-term disabled and my uncle, who lives nearby with my grandfather, has physical disabilities. We all moved into my grandfather’s house before lockdown began so we could help care for my uncle. We were all strictly shielding, because my grandfather and my uncle are both so vulnerable.
It wasn’t easy: there were six of us in a house with three beds. And we were there for months, not going out at all. I didn’t have a room of my own. I slept in the dining room.
I did my A-levels last year. I had been predicted 3Cs but ended up with two A* and an A, so I took a gap year to think about what I wanted to do. While I was thinking about it, the world fell in on itself.
Lockdown was hard. I’m used to being very active in the community and in our local church. But losing all that made me lonely, even though I was living in a small house with so many people.
We did get a lot closer as a family during lockdown but my mental health suffered too. For a while, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to university any more. Then I decided I did want to go, but I had to choose universities sight unseen, which wasn’t great.
Coming to university was very strange. I had been completely isolating until the moment I came down to London, so I hadn’t spoken to anyone of my own age group for months. And then suddenly I was meeting 200 new people in a single day. I literally felt rusty. It was incredibly exhausting.
I realise now how dangerous loneliness can be and how important family and community is. Being so isolated, when we were shielding my grandfather and uncle, really affected my wellbeing. Depression would have been an easy path to go down.
Being locked in a house can really change a person in the long term. It’s hard to put a word on it but I’m more cautious now. But I’m more thankful too: my grandfather and my uncle survived the virus. They survived this existential threat. I’m still getting my head around that.
Aadam Patel lives in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire with his parents, Musa and Zubeda, and his brother and sister
Death is slowly becoming the norm. Dewsbury is one of the worst-hit areas in the country and the Covid deaths are piling up. There were three times more deaths in our community than we would usually have seen over the summer. The biggest shock was recently when a guy my age, who had also just graduated, died.
He was really healthy and happy – and then suddenly he was dead from Covid. It took two weeks.
The majority of deaths in our community have been of people in their 50s and older. They mostly look really healthy – you see them around, chatting and looking normal, and then you suddenly hear that they’ve died of Covid.
It’s a real eye-opener: this disease can get everyone. It puts the problems I’m going to have with my career as a result of the pandemic into perspective: this is a deadly disease.
I was about to take my law degree at Huddersfield University before lockdown hit. My future seemed daunting but exciting. I had loads planned over summer: I was going to do a lot of travelling, sport and get experience in the legal sector. It was all lined up.
Then in just a few weeks, it all came crashing down. I got a first in my degree, which I’m proud of, but lockdown got harder after my strict routine of study ended in May.
I have pressed pause on my life, and although I’m dying to resume it, I don’t even know if there’s a play button there any more.
I really want to get on. I want to do the things I’ve hoped and dreamed of doing. There is a hint of normality now with people going back to work but I can see us going back into some kind of lockdown.
I’m not looking forward to a winter lockdown. It’s going to be really tough for everyone. Mass depression is definitely something I can see my community suffering from.
As for my career, if things carry on like this then there are going to be all this year’s graduates competing with last year’s and next year’s for a smaller number of jobs.
These are the years where I should be planning my life and putting the building blocks in place. I should be getting experiences and memories that will help me to progress in life. It’s really challenging waking up and doing nothing, while your future is ahead of you.
The son of a care support worker and Rwandan refugee, Dylan Kawende is from north-west London and is studying at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge
When the pandemic started, I was in the middle of a gap year which I’d taken to raise the money to do my law conversion course. You can’t get loans to do postgraduate qualifications, so I had to raise the £60,000 for fees and accommodation through scholarships and crowdfunding.
I was nervous that the pandemic would make it harder for me to fundraise. My father had to turn down an offer to study electronic engineering at Cambridge when he was younger because he could not afford it.
But one of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is that it forced us as a country to have a conversation around social inequalities and access to elite educational establishments like Cambridge. The fact that the pandemic coincided with anti-racism protests also helped generate interest in my campaign and I raised the money I needed in just one and a half months.
The pandemic has definitely changed things for me and for others at the same stage in life. It’s changed how we operate: almost everything we do now has to be done online. We have to work online, network online, socialise online. It’s a challenge for those who aren’t comfortable exposing themselves online but I’m an optimist: we’re a generation who are quite resilient and quite open about our mental health. We’re far more comfortable talking about these things than previous generations.
I did a degree at UCL before coming to Cambridge and university in pre-Covid times was very different. I’m on a corridor with eight other students and we don’t see each other unless we make an arrangement to meet up in the shared kitchen.
I’m not lonely but I am alone. There’s no social interaction and very little education face time either.
When I think about my future, I know it is a risk that firms and companies might take regressive steps when hiring, if they feel like the whole diversity initiative and movement is too much of an ask. But I get a sense that most of the good companies have been having this conversation for at least 10 years. I don’t think diversity and inclusivity will go away. It cannot be undone. The seeds are already sown and we just need to continue having those conversations.
I feel optimistic. This is not the first time the economy has suffered and shrunk. It’s different this time but recovery is inevitable and I hope that by the time I’m applying for jobs, the opportunities will be there.
Nairn McDonald lives in North Ayrshire with his mother, Lindsay, and two younger brothers
I’ve been a carer for my mum since I was 12. She had a number of strokes when she was 39 and was registered disabled. My dad works night shifts at Tesco. My younger brother has epilepsy and autism, and I have chronic anxiety and depression. But I’m still the first in my family to go to university. I studied politics and social policy at the University of the West of Scotland and graduated with a 2:2, two years ago this July.
I’ve spent the last two years being a full-time carer for mum and trying to get my mental health into a good enough place to let me explore the world of work. I had done it too: in January of this year, my head was in the best place it had been for three years. I was starting to look at jobs in the charity sector where I could help people from backgrounds like mine but who needed more support.
But the pandemic put a stop to that. So many charities have closed that I’m up against people with 15 years’ experience. I can’t compete with that.
In April, I put the job hunt to one side and concentrated on helping local people who were shielding.
When things opened up again in September, I began applying for jobs again but the market is saturated. I went for a part-time job, just 10 hours a week. But then I discovered that 400 people had applied for it. I didn’t have a chance.
Lockdown was really difficult. When Boris Johnson told the nation that we had to prepare to lose loved ones, I was floored. I began having two to three massive breakdowns a day, which exhausted me. The doctor had to increase my medication and then had to give me more drugs to ease the transition. But one of the side-effects of the new medication was suicidal thoughts, which I started getting really badly.
Then in March, we lost my great uncle to Covid. I started to panic that we’d lose Granddad too. The thoughts of death and loss were overwhelming. I’ve finally reached a stable place but the thought of another lockdown, even for two weeks, terrifies me.
Covid has had a devastating impact on my future. It’s totally upended and changed the world that I’ve spent my whole life preparing to enter. Now I’m just trying to find a way forward but one of my biggest immediate concerns is the darkness of winter and the suicidal thoughts. I don’t want them to come back, especially now the days are getting shorter. It’s the darkness I find so hard.
The Guardian will return to these young people in December to hear their reflections on 2020 and hopes for the year ahead.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Generation Z and the Covid pandemic: ‘I have pressed pause on my life’ | UK news