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It’s so strange being in school again. It feels weird, after almost two years of complete isolation, to be surrounded by others. Sometimes, the overstimulation of people is too much. There are too many smells, too many sounds, too many people, too much of them in the same room. The crowds are too much, the voices are too loud, the smells are overwhelming me, when I come home from school I’m exhausted and tired. It’s intense, the weight of social interactions, even attempting a smile at times is overbearing and sometimes I feel I must run away. The oversaturation of color and sound blurs my vision till sometimes I feel that I need to sit somewhere and listen to the quiet. To the isolation where I found comfort, the tranquil solitude of the pandemic. The school… can be a bit too much sometimes.
There’s still the pandemic looming over our heads, hand sanitizers in everyone’s backpacks, masks looped around our ears, the hesitation in physical contact, the awkwardness and avoidance of eye contact. There are teachers who dislike still using paper worksheets, preferring instead the more hygienic route of Schoology and online work. There’s awkward laughter and hesitant smiles, the confusion in how exactly does this work.
But it doesn’t mean I hate it. There’s the laughter shared between my friends sitting together that I missed, sharing crinkled notes in a class where a teacher won’t let you use your phone, the furious writing of pencil on paper as we take notes. There’s me laughing and the teases of my friend as he beats me in Kahoot in class which I totally did not hold a grudge over, the chatter of my friend’s voices as we talk in the girl’s bathroom, my friend leaning to me over the desk to frantically whisper about the guy behind us (“Dude, no way!” “No dude, I’m serious, he totally did that!”)(Highschool gossip is inane, redundant, idiotic, and immature, but I still enjoy the meaningless gossip. Cynical I am, unable to have fun I am not.). It’s a vibrant, chaotic mess, we all complain about the constant repairs and construction and the traffic at the intersection and student parking and our exams and how annoying our teachers are and how AP is such a hassle sometimes and how this guy is an idiot and how this girl is dumb but nice and I swear to God she needs to break up with her boyfriend and everything … kind of seems normal. It feels like we’re shifting to that old rhythm again, the one pre-COVID but much, much different.
There’s something bittersweet about all of this. It’s the end of my high school career, but I only spent a year and a half in real school. I feel like my youth has been snatched from me, but I can’t find myself to be entirely bitter about it. I was fifteen once, but now I’m seventeen and wearier but smarter. One pays the price for maturity. But I enjoy the smiles of my friends more and I enjoy the satisfaction of a 100 written in red ink on my test paper and I relish in the quiet calm of the school before students rush in, bustling in with energy and activity. I still enjoy the taste of crisp coffee in the morning as I walk into Coronado, lugging my ever-heavy backpack, filled with books and notebooks and pens. I still have meaningful conversations with the librarians about books I’m reading, smiling as I’m perched over the counter. There are still things that are the same. There are things that aren’t, traumas and people lost that you can never return. One thing that I am aware of is that as I step back, slowly, and surely into this life ravaged by COVID and the quarantine, I’ll try to pick pieces of my life up, sew it together again. It won’t be perfect, it’ll be intensely flawed, but at least I treasure my life more than I used to. At least when I look out at this school one more time before I leave, I’ll treasure a part of this chaos in my heart. The last remnant of my youth and of my heart.