Turning 17 in a Pandemic

Turning 17 is a huge milestone for all, but what happens when what should be the best year of your life so far, includes a Pandemic? Izzy is here sharing her story!

Isabel Johnson Profile Picture

By Isabel Johnson

Updated on Mar 1st, 2021

Hello I’m Isabel and I’m 17. Or, more specifically, I turned 17 in the middle of this pandemic, meaning I’m in the year that had everything cancelled for us. Driving lessons, driving/theory tests, prom, exams, last day, school, sixth form/college, you name it. I know this hit hard for me and many others so people could probably relate to this blog and my experiences.

When 2020 hit

Thinking back to when it all started, March 2020 was possibly the worst month for uncertainty. We got sent home with no tell of how long this would last and what would happen to our exams. I, like many others, thought initially this would be a 2 week thing - yay extra holidays! It was only when we began to tune into the news later that week that it hit. Our last day was more of an afternoon of nothing but tears and we still had no idea what would happen to exams. That was certainly the more eventful end of this whole thing, even if it ended in as much nothing as we’re doing now. Finally we got an answer about exams, we weren’t going to do them, but this left another question, what would we do for the next 6 months until sixth form and college started in September? The fact we didn’t have to do online school when nobody had any idea what they were doing was a good thing at the time, although this did come back to bite us later on.

Will you go to prom with me?

The next thing to look forward to was prom. By this point, more and more of the restrictions were being lifted and that gave us hope that one part of our Year 11 would be how we expected it. However, as you know, it wasn’t to be. But it’s not all bad, we have the Year 13 prom (for those of us who continued school) and the hope we still fit into our dresses then.

Everything seemed semi-normal when we went back for the new school year with the only difference being a few more metres between us and the odd group of students self isolating for a couple of weeks. There was hybrid learning and lots of desk space but nothing new. Well, going into Year 12 was always going to be very different I guess!

Happy birthday to me?

Now this is probably the part you’ve been expecting, the 2nd lockdown rolled around and my 17th birthday happened to be right in the middle of it – brilliant! Of course turning 17 means you can finally learn to drive… right? Well, in October I had made all my plans to meet with my driving instructor and had been doing theory test revision throughout the summer. Luckily, tier 3 still allowed for driving lessons (provided masks were worn and both driver and learner were from the same tier) so I was able to pick up my lessons and get started on my driving journey. This went very well and I really enjoyed my lessons so much that they were things I looked forward to each week. Wel,, for the 2 weeks they lasted anyway. That’s when we were placed in tier 4 and driving lessons were stopped entirely. I had no idea when my theory test would be - I still don’t - and still haven’t had any more lessons with my instructor. This really knocked my confidence, especially when private practice was stopped too. I felt like I couldn’t drive because I hadn’t done it in so long but thankfully it wasn’t too long until private practice was allowed again, if only for essential journeys. This was daunting at first, going out to drive to the supermarket without dual controls, but definitely a good thing to do. Spending this long without lessons was hard enough so I couldn’t imagine going months without even being in the driving seat.

Private practice starts...

Of course, being with an instructor is easier on lessons as they are less stressed than a parent who has never taught driving before but that too is a learning experience. In the way of private practice, I’ve been going out for a short essential drive whenever I can, so the first lesson back isn’t like my first ever lesson all over again. I am lucky enough to not be at the point of doing my driving test but I can only imagine others around my age who have had this happen days before having the test booked, another struggle of this age group.

As of now, along with essential private practice the other thing that is finally happening is online school. This one, however, is less good (for me at least). This can’t be easy for anyone, teachers included, but I for one have been bombarded with a much heavier workload than expected. This may have been doable at school but among having to do other things and being in a place you have never before associated with work makes doing it a little harder.

Always look on the bright side of life

But there is positivity in this time too! Along with driving, I’ve also enjoyed the extra time I can spend with my family and some fun things we’ve started doing to make the time at home seem more eventful. Another thing I’ve really enjoyed is catching up with shows, which I think a lot of people my age have been doing, and reading a lot. This time has been very productive, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Either way, I hope that once we’ve all pushed through this then these things will be back to normal - if not for us then those in the years below. Everything we need, like driving and sixth form/college, will restart and the things we missed will surely have another opportunity to happen.

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Isabel Johnson Profile Picture

By Isabel Johnson

Hey! I'm Isabel, and I'm coming up to my 17th birthday very soon. I'm in Sixth Form studying Maths, English Language, Biology and Chemistry, so I'm very excited to learn to drive and document it here as a break from all that very academic work. My mum has been nagging me to learn to drive for a year at this point so maybe that's where the anticipation comes from.

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