Coming to Denison this August was a pretty big moment in my life. It was obviously the beginning of my college journey but it was also the first time I had gone to real in-person school since March of 2020 (with the exception of one day). Being able to walk into a classroom again and sit down along with all my classmates felt great. It made me realize that I took my high school experience for granted, partially because it was such a monotonous routine. Every day was pretty much the same for all my classmates and I. At my high school, we didn’t have a block schedule, we had all the same classes every day. My days were usually long, filled up with IB classes, club meetings, and sports practices. I was pretty tired, my back was sore and I was usually worried about my grades. So when online school started, why wasn’t I relieved?
Looking back, I’ve realized that there’s a certain comfort in being part of a community of people who share the same feelings. However stressed I was at school, I knew that people around me felt the same way. If I was angry about a grade or a teacher, I usually had someone in my class that I could talk to after the class ended. My best friends and I could complain about the SATs or joke about our biology teacher. Even just seeing everyone else around me in our small school and crowded hallways reminded me that I was part of a shared experience. That experience could be challenging but it could also be great, like Friday night football games or school dances. But when Zoom school started, my community shrank. I couldn’t look around and feel that shared experience anymore. All I could see were people’s faces on those tiny squares on the screen, and most times they were relegated to black boxes with just their names. When I sat alone at my desk, school didn’t have any real meaning. I could shut my laptop and leave the class in two seconds. And it would’ve been like I was never really there. It’s a crazy thing to think about, how fake school felt. It was dangerous to my motivation. Because once I shut my computer or even put it in a drawer, then I could pretend I didn’t have anything to do, this was pretty easy actually. Having to physically carry around a heavy backpack crammed with my folders and textbooks was a constant reminder of my responsibilities. A symbol of what I was working towards. Still to this day I like being able to have physical copies of books and to take my notes in my wide-ruled notebook, simply because my thoughts during class feel more permanent that way.
Now that I’m back at in-person school, I’m much happier. I’m reminded every day that as amazing as technology is, the internet can’t replace human connection. And being part of this new community is amazing because being a part of something bigger than yourself makes your work seem worthwhile. And it should be a reminder to all of us not to take things for granted in our lives because everything can change in an instant.