We’ve been back now, day 1 after day 2, for over a month of school. With only one literal clog sending us virtual for a day, it seems like long stretches of forced virtual schooling might just be a part of our past. So this week, my focus is on the story many of you didn’t experience last year, and how it’s been for me as a senior, being part of a small group of people re-entering school life a little differently. Spending day after day staring at a computer screen full of letter icons got old rather quickly in 2020 and 2021, as I am sure it did for the majority of you as well. But for about 40 other kids besides me last year, we never came back – we stayed virtual from August through June. I did it because my family is at high risk for the illness, so it was crucial that I stay home to protect them until we could be safely vaccinated. Not being able to see my friends regularly, and socialize daily, affected me in a way I didn’t realize until later on. Now that I’m a senior, I’m seeing something I might have taken for granted here at Avonworth, especially when I was a freshman, is just days away – a real, live, in-person Homecoming Dance.

Virtual learning pushed me into being more reserved and introverted than usual. Not seeing my friends everyday, let alone anyone other than my family in general, quite frankly was a burden on my mental health. Even though our ultra busy October lives are filled with homework and sports and HoCo proposals, it’s still a daily life we overall do like. The daily routine of going to school and having small talk is much more impactful than it may seem. Having adjusted previously to living my life predominantly from home, away from just about everyone I would have seen on a regular basis pre-COVID, coming back to small talk was surprisingly hard but also wonderfully real.

I wasn’t able to experience the rollercoaster of keeping up with assignments, which is truly a part of the Junior year experience. The hurried discussions over what was on the APUSH test in the hallways between classes, or the confused looks when nobody had a clue what was going on in AP Chem, or the rushed sharing of APUSH Cornell chapter notes when more than half the class forgot to read the chapter. The little experiences seem to make each passing year what they are, and the fact that I wasn’t there for any of it made me feel as though I needed to readjust to socializing with my friends, whom I’ve known for years.

I am glad to be back and comfortable in the norms of high school. I am back to those rushed weekly hallway discussions about quizzes or tests, and whether or not there was (another) pop quiz in American Politics. Daily, my friends and I catch up in the hallway during our lunch, and talk about: colleges that have our attention and how we plan to go about applying, homecoming dress plans, complain to each other about classes we dread to go to, or bicker over who we think should drive us all to Sheetz to get orders of mozzarella sticks before next period. Although many of us forget these small occurrences within a week, they are what make high school, well, high school. They make me so grateful I’m not looking at a silent capital R or K on a screen, but instead seeing and hearing my friends’ voices right near me, no matter if they’re panicked or exhausted or giddy.

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