Photo by Isabella DeRose

Being in person provided me with the social interaction I craved. Seeing friends in the hallways was a refreshing experience I had not felt in months.

‘You only know you love it when it’s gone’ mantra reigns true, even for school

I distinguish pre-COVID-19 me and post me as separate entities, and Pre-COVID-19 me would have an absolute aneurysm if she heard me saying this but… I LOVE SCHOOL. The buzzing in the hallways, the sleepless nights spent spreading yourself thin over a PBA, the battle between paying attention and dozing off in the middle of a boring lecture, even the moments of anxiety as the teacher passes out a huge exam: I love it all. Despite the rage I am constantly repressing due to the endless things COVID-19 has ripped from under me, I must give that nasty virus some credit for restoring my appreciation for school. 

Remote learning was an alluring fantasy proven too good to be true. Though having both a literal off-button for my teachers and my bedroom as my classroom was appealing for the first month, as my routine became monotonous I began to miss the unpredictability of a West Essex school day. In the moment, I may have hated school lunch, but I soon found myself yearning for the harsh fluorescent lighting and subpar food served in the makeshift cafeteria that doubled as a gymnasium. Remote learning offered the savory aspects of school without the sweet moments of social interaction that makes highschool memorable. Therefore, when given the option to remain remote or venture in-person, I jumped on the opportunity immediately. 

I’m not going to lie, being one of the few students in person was painfully awkward in the beginning. It seemed as though students clung to their masks as a justification for being mute in class; teachers pleading for a simple ‘hello’ out of students was like pulling teeth. I missed the connection I used to cultivate with my teachers over the school year, and the closest thing to a teacher/student relationship I had was them knowing what the ceiling of my bedroom looked like due to my constantly tilted up camera. However, as time passed and the awkward silences turned into noisy chatter, I found myself making new ‘school friends’ and lingering at my teachers’ desks after the bell rang for small talk. 

Coming to school for the first time since March 2020, I felt like my freshman self experiencing the enthralling ‘high school firsts’ again. First time ditching class to grab a snack from (the now makeshift) cafe, first time leading the teacher on a tangent to get out of notes, first time shaking off nerves for an in-class presentation: it all felt exciting. Additionally, the feeling of normalcy was addictive. I even remember taking an impossible math test and leaving the classroom with a huge smile on my face because the stress reminded me of what school used to be. Though I was quickly reminded of the baggage that comes along with physically going to school–sleepless nights, cramming for tests and snoozing alarms– the sprinkles of social interactions with my teachers and peers gave me a better school life in a matter of two weeks than I was able to squeeze out of the entire first two marking periods. 

The summer going into my freshman year, whenever I told my extended family or older family friends that I was entering highschool, their go-to response was that highschool is fleeting. Initially, I thought it was just a cliche that old people who are stuck in their teenage years say, but a pandemic transitioning me from a sophomore to a senior in what felt like seconds has definitely slapped me across the face with that adage. I am constantly reflecting on what could have been if COVID-19 had not infiltrated the back-half of my sophomore year and the beginning of my junior year, however losing the aspects of school I hated the most has shown me to take advantage of highschool while I still can. If not for COVID-19, I would have continued to go through the motions of school without taking the time to bask in its hidden glorys.

 Luckily, the class of 2022 gets one more shot to live their senior year to the fullest, for Governor Phil Murphy announced that all schools will be fully in-person next year. In a year already full of appreciating the ‘lasts’ of highschool, I know I will be clinging to every good grade, morning announcement, cafe cold brew and studying late-night before another virus can take it away from me.

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