Youth in the time of the Coronavirus (Marissa Teo)



Covid19 hit us like an oncoming truck on a seemingly empty road

Looking around, it’s natural we thought we lived in a ‘Safe Mode’

We looked left, we looked right, it seemed safe to cross the street…

And then we were hit by a virus that’s proving really hard to beat. 

On the outside, it seems like I’m fine, that I’m ok

I’ve a good head on my shoulders, that’s what they always say

But how am I to cope when my brain’s not fully formed,

With my anxieties and hormones racing, trying to act like this is the new norm

It’s already confusing, being stuck in-between,

The person that I was, I am and who I want to be, it seems

The expectations they have of me are just too high

How am I to keep up hope when it seems like the end is nigh?

I’m not an adult, I can’t be put in charge

Neither am I a child, yet into my room, you barge

Screaming at me to tidy my room

For the 3rd time today, you bloody boom…(er)

My time is not my own and neither is my life

Seems I need to take a stand, face the hardship and strife

But how am I to make the transition into adulthood yet still be treated like a child

And maintain the child I am when my anxieties are waived off as ‘mild’?

It’s hard to breathe within these four walls

The mental anguish, they say is not essential

To that, all I can say is ‘BALLS’


Whatever ... some days it just feels like I’m done

There’s just so much to do

Oh, you think I’m the lazy one

Don’t you know I have schoolwork too? 

Other days it’s just so tempting to go back to my old ways

Take a puff, slide that blade, sneak out and with my old friends

Rebel from it all, do anything that pays

To keep my sanity on the mend

I don’t know it all, why can’t you see

I may look like an adult but looks can be deceiving

I don’t know a better way to be

Don’t ignore me, keep me believing

Appreciate the times when my mind is clear and sound

So I can survive another day

Don’t in this rhetoric of rebellion keep me bound 

I will flourish, help me keep those demons at bay


Writer’s note:

This piece is the culmination of the various sentiments from the youth I work with. It is easy to judge them as being angsty, demanding and rebellious. What if we looked beyond the façade of their bravado? What if we listened beyond their silence or grumbles? No, youth are certainly not always right. They do struggle to be though; to find their footing in a very confusing world. Be kind, teach them to be kind, and they will flourish. 


Marissa Teo is a multi-modal, creative arts therapist and the founder of Acting Up; a social enterprise providing arts-based, therapeutic interventions for emotionally vulnerable youth. In the past decade of work with youth, Marissa has come to see the value of early intervention and the importance of the arts in emotional expression. Music, dance, drama and visual arts are some of the modalities she uses to engage youth. Her experience includes providing therapeutic intervention at residential and rehabilitation institutions in Singapore, as well as providing mental health training for professionals. Her programmes have seen much success in reaching out to emotionally vulnerable youth, particularly in institutions such as ITE, Singapore Polytechnic and the Singapore Boys’ Home.

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