A teenager’s pandemic

Guest blog by Hollie

Hollie is a member of The Citizen Collective, a group of young writers aged 16-18 who meet online each week. The Citizen Collective was set up in collaboration with schools across Edinburgh and Musselburgh as part of Citizen, a project which explores place, identity and community. Here, Hollie reflects on what it means to be a teenager during a pandemic.
Hollie's desk with two piles of books

On 23 March 2020, the entirety of the UK found themselves in the same daunting situation, with a direct order to stay at home and for majority of us, this was the first time ever hearing it. Students and teachers flocked home with nothing but cancelled exams, and no idea what to expect for the however many months we would continue to be affected.

The upcoming of one full year since the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown has caused me, as I expect for many others across the nations, to look back on the past year and to realise that this has genuinely been the most uncertain time of my life. After experiencing it first hand, I know just how hard the pandemic has impacted teens, and although I am in no way discounting the impact on others in this extraordinary situation, I can only speak from what I know.

Like many others, I remain in the dark with a light constantly being switched on and off again by the Scottish government, and I feel that I speak for every teenager, especially those in school, in saying that this pandemic has knocked us on all fours. We now find ourselves again in the losing battle between online learning and trying to take care of ourselves this lockdown, something I know all too well. Hopefully by now, we have all found a way to cope in our temporary distress.

I have never been one for creative writing, in fact I don’t particularly like it at times. However, it is human nature that when everything around you is so unresolved, you turn to one of the only outlets where you control the narrative, which ironically for me has been writing. At the beginning of The Citizen Collective last year, I truly never thought that I would enjoy it, but I wanted to try something new and that is exactly what I got. It took me so far out with my comfort zone in terms of my creative ability that although I still admit that it is not something I excel in, I can now say confidently that I like writing.

The experience brought me back to something I have been told ever since my first English class, that now finally rings true. Writing isn’t about who can make the most rhymes in a sentence or about every word sounding perfect, it’s something you do for fun, something that takes you away from yourself, even if just for a moment.

During the Collective I was told that I have a talent for taking myself out of a situation and writing from a completely different perspective, something I didn’t realise before joining, and I don’t think I possessed before the pandemic. In lockdown, the constant wishing and wanting to be anywhere but where you are, that everyone has experienced this past year, has fuelled what I have written about during my Collective experience, and helped me realise more about myself that I thought I knew.

The social aspect of the Collective has helped me massively through these times. Regularly seeing people who you have never even met in person, yet feel some connection to, has really showed me that people who you may not normally speak to are just as amazing. It has taught me to broaden my horizons socially and, quite ironically, has reminded me to never judge a book by its cover. It is for these aspects of The Citizen Collective that although it has been testing for everyone, I don’t mind living in a teenager’s pandemic.

You can find out more about The Citizen Collective and hear examples of their work in the above video, made as part of the Citizen Winter Warmer 2020.

Citizen is the Book Festival’s long-term creative programme working in partnership with organisations across Edinburgh and Musselburgh. The project is part of Edinburgh International Book Festival On The Road, and is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and through the PLACE Programme (funded by the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, and the Edinburgh Festivals, and supported and administered by Creative Scotland).

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