There's no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic, for better or worse, affected everyone's life, taking us on a roller coaster since March 2020 when things began to first shut down. First, it was my high school, Menlo-Atherton, announcing a "two-week" break, which soon became a yearlong break. Although I saw this pandemic as an opportunity to grow as a person, it soon challenged me in ways I would never have thought possible. I became self-aware of how divided cities can be and how greatly people from different socioeconomic statuses can be affected.
My mom's job shut down during March, and just a few weeks ago, she received a letter letting her know she was officially laid off. Because of financial issues, my dad had to take on another job in order to support us. While my family persevered despite money problems, I saw how my friends and other family members struggled to pay rent and purchase simple necessities.
Trips to Costco, test-tasting food samples prior to COVID, soon became trips to the Second Harvest Food Bank every Saturday.
Once school began back up again online after the two-week break in March, my mental health severely declined.
Each week I felt less and less motivated to complete my assignments and often found myself having panic attacks when I realized it was too late to catch up on all my missing assignments. The small apartment in which I live made it harder to concentrate, as my sisters also needed space for their schoolwork. Luckily, I was somehow able to pass all my classes that remaining semester.
Throughout the pandemic, I became self-conscious of my body and found myself constantly exercising after I had reached a certain weight I deemed unfit for myself.
Although my relationship with my body took a decline at the beginning of the pandemic, it has also allowed me to learn how to take better care of myself, and I now do so rightfully by nourishing my body with food and exercise.
The pandemic has truly allowed me to love my body and who I am. Although it might seem crazy, I run 3 miles every weekday with my mom at 7 a.m., and on weekends we run 5. Running has become my escape from issues in my life, whether it's money-related or a simple missing assignment that I know I can complete later.
For what it is, the pandemic made me truly value my health and family, despite being around them at every corner of my house. The biggest thing I learned from the pandemic thus far is that the division between residents in cities like East Palo Alto and Atherton is truly real. It affects students from lower socioeconomic classes in school, financially, mentally, physically, and in several other ways, and although this remains highly prevalent, nothing has been done about it.
Brianna Aguayo is a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School and an editor-in-chief at the M-A Chronicle, the school's student newspaper. She lives in East Palo Alto.