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What began as a novelty now makes Abdul Kader angry.
When Victorian Premier Dan Andrews sent Victoria into lockdown for the sixth time this month, the 17-year-old year 11 student saw precious days lost in another crucial year cursed by the impact of COVID-19. He was left wondering whether the next year will be any better as he finishes his VCE.
Werribee Secondary College year 11 student Abdul Kader.Credit:Chris Hopkins
“At first last year it felt strange, but it was kind of exciting for me, because we’ve never been in a situation like this before. So I was kind of excited about it,” says the Werribee Secondary College student.
That was in March 2020. By August last year, when the state went into its second lockdown – a 112-day marathon – it was “the worst”.
“I was devastated. I could not handle being in lockdown for that long and not being able to see people face to face for that long,” he says.
A year later, as the state was plunged into its sixth lockdown just nine days after being released from its fifth, any sense of excitement had given way to pangs of fury and fear.
Abdul can’t see his friends. He is stuck at home all day with his siblings – aged 2, 9, 16 and 18 – and his parents. He struggles with motivation and sometimes fears that his studies are suffering.
These teenagers – Generation COVID – fear they may find themselves defined by this disruption, and by being forced to get to know themselves and each other in ways unfamiliar to previous generations.
Isolation can summon anxiety and depression, but also unusual forms of intimacy. Abdul ponders the future and how this unprecedented era will define the lives of him and his friends.
Abdul has a solid academic workload – English, ancient history, legal studies, food studies, business management and economics – that he pursues from his bedroom. Three of his four siblings do the same in their rooms. But with seven people in the house, it is far from ideal.
Abdul wonders how this unprecedented era will define the lives of him and his friends.Credit:Chris Hopkins
“It is an advantage that we all have access to some sort of device to be able to do all the online work at home,” he says. But it can be noisy and it’s hard to focus.
“I have to be honest, I’ve slacked off a bit during remote learning. I started falling behind on my work … sometimes I don’t have the motivation to get up and do the work.
“Every day, I would either video call or text my friends and we will study together or just talk, just to keep in touch during lockdown,” he says.
“If one of us is struggling with the work or needs some mental support, we help each other out. I feel some of my friends were struggling and their mental health was not the best. Depending on the situation at home and what is happening inside the house, that affects how they’re feeling and how they’re adapting to these new times.”
He has other coping mechanisms. One favourite hobby, making and editing videos, is suited to solitary hours in front of a screen. Another strategy is to avoid all but the most important news broadcasts. “I don’t want to be surrounded by COVID stuff, it is everywhere.”
And he makes sure he gets outside. “I exercise at home and I go for a jog or a walk outside every single day.”
He ponders the future, too.
“I’m thinking that I’m almost graduating from high school and I’m not getting that much time to spend with my friends. It’s hard that for these two years we’ve been in and out of lockdown,” he says.
“I’m a very social person. I like to be surrounded with people. But being in a situation like this for months could affect me in a really negative way. I don’t want it to repeat over and over again.”
Now year 12 awaits – and the anxiety of what that will be like.
“I don’t want my year 12 to end up like this. I want it to be normal.”
What do you miss most about life before COVID-19?
I miss being able to see my friends almost every day, and not having to wear masks ever.
What is your best lockdown coping strategy?
Listening to music. It helps me forget that we’re in lockdown.
Has there been a silver lining – something positive – about the past year?
Being able to oversleep every day!
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