How it Started vs. How it’s Going

How+it+Started+vs.+How+it%27s+Going

Alice Xie, Staff Writer

I’ve had friends tell me how great high school is. How I will learn more than I’ve ever known. How the friends I make will be lifelong. How I’ll grow to be the best I can be. And most importantly, how I will look back on my high school years and smile with the happy memories I’ve made.

But one year in, and I’m unable to confirm anything. Because the truth is, I truly have no idea what high school is really like. For three quarters of my freshman year, I’ve had to necessitate taking my classes online and participating in school activities from within the confines of my own home. I’m labeled as a West Ranch Wildcat, but for the longest time, I didn’t even know what West Ranch looked like.

Up until the moment I stepped foot on West Ranch’s campus for the first time, I had only seen the campus in the virtual backgrounds of my teachers. The glitchy backgrounds that didn’t really follow the movements of the box’s inhabitants were mere glimpses of the high school I was attending.

Not only is the Zoom classroom lacking good virtual backgrounds, but it’s also lacking a great deal of interaction. Perhaps the most awkward part of class is the very beginning, when the teacher asks everyone how they’re doing, and a deafening silence is the only response, along with a few ‘goods’ in the chat that contradict the tired faces of the commenters. And I hate to say it, but I don’t think I’ll be finding any lifelong friends in high school if this continues. There’s an unsaid mutual understanding among all students in regards to unmuting microphones, so we all just sit there, quietly staring at each other and the teacher, hoping that we aren’t the unlucky ones that will get called on.

High school also hasn’t been as rigorous due to the pandemic. After years of education, all supposedly preparing me for the large workload of high school, the result was slightly anticlimactic. I’ve been given a lot of slack in my classes, so much so that I could actually complete my homework during the class in which it’s due (not that I do). The workload, in my opinion, is not as big as I was taught to believe; the only reason I haven’t been completing my work as fast is because of my new best friend: distractions.

If I could describe my high school quarantine experience in one hashtag, it would be #distracted. My unintentional procrastination, which stems from an abundance of distractions, has increased GREATLY since quarantine began. Lately, my favorite excuse to use has been “I still have enough time!” Then after convincing myself that I have plenty of time left after reading several chapters of my book, I look out my window and the sky is pitch black. Needless to say, I’ve become nocturnal a number of times during the school year.

I’ve also felt very lost during the pandemic. My sense of time management has completely disappeared, and my daily schedule has dissipated into nothingness. I often feel as though I’m reliving the same day over and over again: wake up, go to school, do homework, aimlessly stare into the abyss, sleep, and then repeat. At the beginning of quarantine, I thought that a little alone time wouldn’t be able to faze me, but I was proven wrong. Without a set objective for the day, I’ve found that I’m slowly descending into a vortex of crazed repetition and perhaps even madness.

And after so long in isolation, coming back to campus has been a struggle. The worst of it has been waking up early in the morning. And of course, social interaction has been quite a roller coaster. Over quarantine, I left the house so little that I’ve actually started avoiding going outside. Before the pandemic, if I saw someone, I’d wave and say hi. Now, I’ll pull my hood up and run. So naturally, being in the presence of many other human beings back on campus has been hard on the hermit I’ve become during self isolation.

Not to mention, the school walkways have been completely altered to follow safety protocols. Of course, I fully understand the necessity of it, but it’s been extremely confusing, especially as someone who’s never been on campus ever before, to navigate the paths. Just the other day, I thought I was making my way to Biology, when I found myself face to face with a metal gate, and a dead end. There’s also the time when I missed my class by three doors, and wasn’t allowed to walk against traffic, so I had to walk all the way back around campus. Oh, and I can’t forget, on my first day, I got lost several times trying to locate the upper entrance, and ended up walking five times around the entire upper campus.

But compared to being in my own room, without anyone to talk to, and no motivation to leave my chair, I’d say that going back in-person has definitely been a nice change of pace. Once I get everything sorted out and my sense of direction fixed, I’m sure I’ll choose going to school in-person over online any day. And while I’m still unsure if my freshman year has been for better or for worse, one thing is for sure: this year will definitely be a memorable one.