Graphic by Oishee Misra
I spent most of high school waiting for it to be over.
On March 13, 2020, when the loudspeaker crackled on and announced that school would be shutting down for three weeks, I felt a mix of relief and anxiety, happiness and distress. I didn’t know quarantine would last for over a year at the time, but maybe a part of me did — the thought “woah, this seems apocalyptic and high school seems over” did briefly flit through my mind.
And now that high school really is almost over, I am just now realizing how alarmingly stupid it was that I spent so much time wishing it away. Because nearly everything that has kept me going this school year, despite the unprecedented challenges? It’s been, well, high-school-themed.
Pre-pandemic, my expansive directory of humor featured “can I go home?” and “I know it’s been three minutes, but, like, when does class end?”
And then life said, “Yes, you can go home and stay there for a year.”
A week into Zoom school, I started to miss walking (usually running because I tended to be more focused on finishing brunch than entering class before the bell rang) to class with my friends, laughing at their inability to parallel park or admittedly gossiping about who said what about which couple to whom. A month into Zoom school, I started to miss talking to my teachers more frequently, walking into a classroom during office hours and hearing about their lives (hi, Ms. Belshe!) — it’s easy to forget teachers are more than just teachers. I missed the smiles of the cafeteria workers after I grabbed my daily, freshly-baked cookie (the chocolate chips would melt in my mouth). And now, a year into Zoom school, I miss being in a physical classroom, being surrounded by classmates who are excited and motivated to learn (well, sometimes) and listening to a teacher whose passion is so evident it seems ludicrous to think they could have ever even considered not being a teacher.
It seems funny, and a little bit sad, that I didn’t think about or miss any of these things when we were at school in person. I was too focused on passing the time as quickly as possible so I could leave, go to college and be independent and figure out what I wanted to do with my life and be successful (whatever that even means).
It sounds a little cliche — maybe that’s what makes it so true, though — but the pandemic has been a reality check.
Friendships have faded — especially ones with acquaintances or friends I would walk to class with or wave to in the hallways — but have simultaneously been cemented and even forged. Even if they’re from the same five people, there have been endless laughs on FaceTimes, lots of texts (does it count when they’re on the Google Docs chat feature or on a comment thread? Sure.) and socially distanced walks (my boba addiction is more fun when I walk into Tea Era with a friend). Friendships feel more authentic when you need to work to maintain them. Not just friendships — any relationship, including ones with parents and teachers. It can be difficult to bond with adults (they don’t understand TikTok!), but when everyone is feeling the same way and going through the same circumstances, it can be easier to connect. Teachers are so underappreciated — I have, and hopefully we have, learned to show more gratitude towards them this year.
The Class of 2021 didn’t really get a senior year. We didn’t watch the sun creep up together at Senior Sunrise, we didn’t walk into our last Homecoming dance or Senior Ball, we didn’t get to yell with elation after winning our last rally and we likely won’t get a normal graduation. But we did go through a distance learning pandemic year together, and maybe that’s what we’ll remember — that we collectively went through it and collectively recognized the futility of spending high school waiting for second semester senior year and beyond instead of spending high school just being in high school.
Sometimes it feels like MVHS is a breeding ground for negativity and cynicism. Speaking from personal experience, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by stress or exhaustion and resort to condemning everything and declaring it awful (accompanied with a swear word of choice).
But a year of distance learning has taught me that small silver linings become more pronounced when there is a literal pandemic to deal with. Constantly looking toward the future and wishing for it to come faster are not always the best coping mechanisms — especially when the future is uncertain (and isn’t it always?). Sometimes all we can do is make the best of our circumstances, and help ourselves (or seek help) and the people around us. And instead of waiting for the bad things to recede, hold the good things closer.
The prospect of college is so close, and I feel a mix of relief and anxiety, happiness and distress. But it’s not here yet. For now, I’ll let it be a hovering thought and exciting new future endeavor.
Because I won’t spend the rest of high school waiting for it to be over.