The New Normal?

Dear Asian Youth,


We’re all familiar with quarantine, and I can’t speak for everybody, but I started out pretty strong; I thought that it would be just a couple of home assignments, and my friends were a text away. School had been refashioned to come home with me, and as different as it felt, I realized that school was school no matter where it was.


It would be just two weeks, I thought, and then we’d be back to normal life: the spring musical, finals, all that good stuff. For the time being, I was simply glad to be doing my work in my comfy full-sized bed in black Adidas sweats rather than at desks with uncomfy chairs and clothes I felt compelled to wear.


Soon enough, two weeks turned into three. I continued creating Snapstreaks with the people I loved most and working on group projects through FaceTime rather than alongside my peers. I felt like I had finally adjusted to the gist of things; as if I had found a new normal.


But exactly two weeks after that one unlucky Friday, my school’s production of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr. was canceled indefinitely. I felt a piece of life, a piece of normalcy, being ripped from me. I knew that there would always be another show, but Alice had become such an important part of my life, and I finally realized the toll that quarantine would be taking on it.


Sooner or later, the Snapstreaks dwindled, and the people I loved most were still the people I loved, just a spring musical and a couple text messages poorer.


More and more cases and casualties were being reported. My friends’ missing assignments turned into grades plummeting, point by point.


The numbers faded, and so did I.


April was a blur; all I remember was that Broadway was closed until at least the 12th and I spent my birthday playing The Sims 4. Not to make it too deep, but I’d felt so deprived of living that I resorted to San Myshuno and Simoleons.


May was a hallmark; I got my first girlfriend, the first girl I’d ever felt that I’d loved, and it was one of the highlights of my quarantine. But even then, loving her made me feel an exorbitant deprivation of the pure platonic love that kept me going.


Sometime in between the beginning of May and one month after we had started dating, my friends were planning a little picnic downtown.


Obviously, my parents didn’t let me go, and I completely understood; at the time, it didn’t feel like the safest thing to do, so not going wasn’t a huge deal, but that was when I realized that what I needed most was other people.


In June, my girlfriend and I went to Olive Garden after one month of being together; it was the first time that I had dressed up properly and seen somebody since March 13th.


In July, we went on two dates, and as I continued to go out and see her, I finally began to feel a sense of “normalcy” returning. The Diablo’s and my plaid pants meant so much after months of isolation. Boba was sweeter than it had ever been, and my white leather Converse still held up pretty well after not being worn for several months.


But the matching pink bandanas and the surgical masks finalized what meant most to me. Quarantine taught me the importance of love and companionship, platonic or romantic.


Come August, and we’re all back in school. I’m fortunate enough to have been given this opportunity for in-person education, and I’ve decided to make the most of it.


So now, I’ve traded in my sweats for crewnecks and collars. And even though that relationship has worn away, I still have the pink bandana, a reminder of how love has, and will always, keep me going. Sometimes, I’ll tie it around my forehead, rocking it as I dance my heart out during my second class of the day.


While life still hasn’t returned to “normal,” I’m trying my best to bring it back on my own terms.


And to bring it back, I realize that the root of my old normal, and the root of my new normal, was and always will be, love.


- Sebastian Paragas


Cover Photo Source: Abby Haddican