Tough Stuff

This GL girl tells her story of living through the COVID-19 quarantine in New York City

Back in March, the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine shut down the whole world in an instant. Middle schooler and GL reader Lexia Hayden writes *her* story of living through the pandemic in New York City—and how it's impacted her life in the months since.

I love routines. Wake up, do a quick exercise routine, breakfast, school, tennis, homework. My daily goal? Get to bed by 10 p.m. On the weekends: Modeling photo shoots, homework and more tennis practice and matches. In the  Before Times, I always tried to fit in time with my family, but it wasn't always easy. As my schedule got busier, I didn't always have time for the games and conversations I'd loved as a little kid. I'd catch up with my dad in the morning when he took me to school, or tried to hang with my older brother Chase when he wasn't busy with his high school commute or mountain of studying to do. I saw my mom a lot, but mostly we would talk about my busy schedule and how to make time for everything. Life was a happy, but busy, schedule as I checked to-do items off my weekly lists and each day flowed seamlessly into the next.

And then it all changed. 

For three months, while the COVID-19 pandemic swept through New York City where I live, my whole family was sequestered in the safety of our home. Only my dad ever left—the rest of us were stuck inside to do our part to stay healthy and keep others healthy, too. It almost sounds like the plot of a horror movie. A year ago, I wouldn't have believed something like this could happen. But it was real life—my life, and everyone else's. 

When everything started in March, my friends and I were all really scared. The COVID-19 numbers in NYC were getting high especially compared to the rest of the country at that time. It looked like we were the newest hotspot of the pandemic. We started to hear that school might go virtual or be cancelled. When it actually happened, it was kind of a topsy-turvy free-for-all at my house. Things that had strict rules attached to them were no longer valid—watching TV, which used to be strictly weekends-only, became a near-daily activity. My 10 p.m. bedtime that I'd intensely negotiated over pasta and meatballs one night had become irrelevant. 

And dinner was no longer scarfed in the backseat of an Uber or on the sidelines of tennis practice—it was now a family event. My parents ordered new dishes, pots, pans, cookbooks. We *definitely* had a bit of a home shopping frenzy. I noticed that, during dinner, I wasn't busy planning out the next day with my mom while my brother ran to his room to finish his homework. For the first time in years, we had the free time to sit around the table and just talk and laugh. Suddenly we were cooking and baking. We played marathon-length Monopoly games, learned new card tricks, threw impromptu dance parties and movie nights, told hilarious long stories. I started to realize that, though the pandemic was awful, maybe there were aspects of the quarantine I actually kind of liked

But then everything changed...again. One night, we got a call that my grandfather had tested positive for COVID-19. I was worried and scared. I relied on my family more than ever. As the weather got warmer and we were allowed to go outside (masks on, of course), my mom and I took long walks through the park together. She snapped photos of me for my Instagram and we'd talk and open up to each other. Since tennis wasn't happening, she helped me find new ways to get exercise using YouTube videos and other virtual workouts. I started to open up to friends, too. Some of us got closer than ever through FaceTime calls and constant texts. Other friendships drifted, but I started to realize that that was OK. Amid the ups and downs of middle school, I was starting to get perspective on what *really* matters in life.

My grandfather recovered from COVID-19 and that made me happier than ever. In September, online school began for the new year—and I started to realize that I actually like it better than in-person school. I love getting on Zoom to study and catch up with all my friends. Plus, my brother is only a room away for any questions I have! Tennis and modeling have started up again, and though I'm back to my busy life, I feel closer to my family than ever before. 

So wear a mask, follow your passions, open up when you're having tough emotions and don't forget to spend time with the people who matter most. That's what I learned from the quarantine this spring—and I'll take those lessons with me for the rest of my life.

Image: Lexia Hayden/Instagram

by Lexia Hayden | 11/6/2020