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The 2021 cohort of the Youth Reporting Institute turned on their mics for our summer of storytelling! Listen to the authentic voices and diverse stories they captured over the summer.

Regaining social butterfly skills after emerging from COVID-19 cocoons

Youth Reporter Kayla Mady records her final narration at UNC Ashville
Kamaya Truitt
Youth Reporter Kayla Mady records her final narration at UNC Ashville.

WUNC’s 2021 Youth Reporters turned on their microphones to collect stories from their communities. Kayla Mady of Holly Springs, North Carolina talked to her best friend about how the pandemic has impacted their social skills as extroverts.

Here we are, a year into the pandemic and I am feeling deprived. Deprived of companionship, of community.

I put everything on pause, but I’m an extrovert, and the lack of social interaction is leaving me with an overcharged social battery.

Youth Reporter Kayla Mady interviews longtime friend Rosie Kim about how she has adjusted to the isolation brought on by the pandemic
Kamaya Truitt
Youth Reporter Kayla Mady interviews longtime friend Rosie Kim about how she has adjusted to the isolation brought on by the pandemic

I’m vaccinated, so I decided that maybe it was time I push past my worries and do something drastic. I hopped on a plane at Raleigh-Durham International Airport to go see my longtime friend — Rosalie Kim.

The moment we saw each other, the old high school nostalgia hit. I was so excited to see her — for a moment I forgot we were in a crowded baggage claim. I was excited to start hanging out, so Rosie gave me the rundown for my stay.

“Well, there is a little — I call it a mini beach. It's basically just a lake. Also, we're going to be going to this place called The Domain, it's the only place that I ever shop at,” she said. "And it's got a lot of people, but I'll make sure to literally pull us away, we'll take the back streets so that we don't have to deal with any of the people because I'm not doing that.”

Listen. If I’m an extrovert, Rosie is Extrovert 2.0.

But since the pandemic has started, she’s found herself feeling unusual, much like myself. That's part of why I came to Texas to visit her. We thought we could work on getting our social skills back in practice together.

“I'm so used to going out every night, hanging out with friends, doing whatever, going to bars. But ever since the pandemic happened, I’ve sort of become a recluse, if you will. I've definitely been a homebody recently.”
Rosalie Kim

The first move on the itinerary was The Domain. On the day of the mall trip, we had quite a bit of anxiety.

“I'm actually really stoked because I haven't been out in so long," Kim said. "And, you know, obviously at the same time, a little bit nervous because the virus is still active and very much just like everywhere, so I hope we're safe. I really, really do. I think everything's gonna be fine. Or about it."

I know you might be thinking: it’s just a trip to the mall. But COVID-19 isn’t the only thing that we fear. Another worry lies in the back of our minds. The pandemic of racism and xenophobia.

“The recent attacks on Asians has been skyrocketing,” Kim says. “Ever since the pandemic hit, people would sort of give me a side eye... and one lady turned to me and just said, 'Feel better.' And I don't know why. It was just out of the blue. And another one saw me, and she said, ‘Stop!’ to her kids. She was just like, she pushed them back away from me.”

I’ve also experienced more racism during the pandemic. I’ve been called names like border-hopper and alien. This made me scared to get outside, so going out to a mall was not on the top of my list, but being with Rosie, made me a little less anxious.

“It was really really scary being around so many people. And, you know, I've actually never been this drained in my entire life," Kim said. "It's so weird. And I'm actually really, really glad I had this experience. It's really helping me get back out and just be around people again."

The mall took a toll on our energy, but that wasn’t going to be the end of our adventures. After two days of staying inside to recharge, we visited Dana Peak lake. It was pretty empty, which felt great. And we were all pretty separated from the other groups of people. It was a lot less hectic than the mall.

I’m back in school at UNC Asheville now, and I'm feeling a lot better about socializing. Way better than I did early on in the pandemic.

I actually have a new job at our local mall, and I get to meet new people everyday.

The anxiety coming from depending on other people to care about our safety — and not give us hate because of our identities — was real. But now I feel comfortable enough to put myself out there again.

Kayla Mady was born in Richmond, Virginia. She is currently attending UNC Asheville and is majoring in Mass Communication.
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