At Home Creativity: Juliana, Age 15

 In Voices of Young People

In response to the newfound realities of social distancing, including remote learning for students and working from home for many young professionals, Springtide™ Research Institute launched the At Home Creativity Campaign. This Spring 2020 campaign invited young people ages 13⁠ to 25 in the United States to submit creative works responding to the prompt, “How are you finding connection and meaning in these days of physical distancing?” The variety of submissions included creative writing, poetry, essays, visual art, films, original music, and photography. The top five pieces were selected by a panel of judges at Springtide and are featured in the At Home Creativity series within our Voices of Young People blog.

Here is a creative writing piece from Juliana, 15, in Maryland:

Colors in Quarantine 

I sigh and leash up my dog, his excitement not dampened by the thought of being inside all day. He only thinks about what’s in front of him. I get jealous of that sometimes. He doesn’t have to worry about getting sick or not washing his paws. 

I grab the door handle, and my mom, sitting at her makeshift desk on the dining room table, says, “Don’t forget your mask.” 

She hands me the washable mask one of her friends made. One side is white, filled with pastel flowers; almost vintage looking. And the other is sky blue, dotted with light swirls. I put on the mask, the blue side showing, and step outside. 

The world is different when you are sheltered from it. Everything you’ve known for years is new. The buds on the trees and the blooming flowers fill my sight with life. I smile from under my mask. 

As I start to walk, I see my neighbor, Ms. Jones. I wave. Her mask is deep emerald green. She is working in her garden. Tulips of every color have already sprouted and opened their petals to the sky. My dog pulls on the leash, but I pull him back. To him, greeting the woman who gives him treats on Sundays matters more than keeping six feet apart. 

I keep going, walking under the canopy of newly clothed trees. Down the road, Mr. Bowen tips his hat in a silent hello. His mask is a deep red, like a rusty penny. We pass on opposite sides of the street. My dog whines, wishing to greet the man who scratches him behind the ears whenever he walks past. 

To my dog, distance is the same as a shackle and chain. 

After a while, we turn around, reaching the end of our route. As we walk back, I glance into the De Moore family’s window to see Mrs. De Moore helping her seven-year-old, Henry, with his work, his face screwed up in concentration. They don’t leave the house much these days, but I’ve seen Mrs. De Moore leaving her house a few times to drive to the supermarket. 

Her mask is a light lavender. Henry sees me and waves from his chair. I smile and make a funny face; he laughs and makes one right back. I’ve never seen him with a mask, but I know that if he had the choice, it would be orange and covered in dinosaurs. We wave goodbye, and my dog and I continue on our way home. 

As we get closer to home, the sky starts to darken and the world turns gray. I chuckle. At least it’s a good day to stay inside. As the sky darkens with the promise of rain, the road fills with the warm light from my neighbors’ windows. It’s a perfect metaphor, I think: the warmth shining from homes is like love against the veiled gloom of sickness. The love might be small, but as it spills out into the world. It gives life and color to all who see it. Like the light on the road, love spreads beyond its boundaries. 

I take my mask off as I climb up the stairs to my light-drenched porch, the sound of the rain falling gently behind me. My dog shakes, and I roll my eyes. He didn’t even get wet. Reaching for the door handle, I stop. On the door, there is a bright red tulip with a note. I open the door and take off my dog’s leash. 

“Is that a tulip? Where did it come from?” my mom asks. Tulips are her favorite flower. I give it to her and open the stationery. The paper has a golden border, with birds and peonies filling the margins. 

“To the Arringtons,” I read, “I want to give something bright on this gloomy day. Like us, flowers yearn and reach for the warmth of sunlight. Today, we are all yearning for meaning and connection, for color in our otherwise dark days. Let this flower remind you that even in these troubled times, there is beauty and growth. With hope and love, Ms. Ida Jones.” 

Our Q&A with Juliana: 

What inspired you to create this piece? 

The things that inspired me to create my piece were my neighbors. I love my community and while the names of the characters were fictional, they are based on real people. My neighborhood is so beautiful, and the beauty of it all is so inspiring. Social distancing has changed the neighborhood but not my neighbors. 

What was your creative process for writing this?  

My process started with me taking my dog on a walk with a notebook. I would write things down that stood out and made me smile. After that, I sat down, with my dog of course, and started writing. 

Who are the people you’re safely connecting with during this time of social distancing? 

I video chat with my friends every Monday and talk to my neighbors when walking. For school, I study with my friend online; it’s easier to get things done that way! 

Are trusted adults checking in with you (inside or outside your home) during time? What does that connection mean to you? 

Both my parents are essential employees. My mom works from home, and my dad has to go into work almost every day. Other than my family, my teachers check in on all of their students. It really means a lot to me to be thought of because it reminds me that things will be okay—maybe not normal, but okay. I love seeing all the creative ways we are all getting in touch with each other and brightening each other’s days. 

Anything else you’d like us to know about this project, your process, and/or your at-home experience right now? 

I wrote this piece as a tribute to my neighbors and the kindness they’ve shown me through this time. Without them and their kindness, the world would be very gray. Along with all the essential workers, these friends, neighbors, and moms and dads are my heroes.

Springtide’s recent Social Distance Study found that for many young people, sheltering in place and social distancing provoke fear and uncertainty, leading to increased levels of isolation, loneliness, and anxiety. This survey also found that the single most important way to mitigate loneliness is for trusted adults to reach out and connect with young people. 

Although young people continue to find creative outlets even through the challenges of COVID-19, remember that our research confirms they still need trusted adults to reach out to them. Consider how you might connect to the young people in your circle of care by engaging their interests or encouraging their creative pursuits. 

Image created by Daniel Barreto. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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