By ANASTASIA ZOLOTOVA
As I’m writing this, my Newspaper class is having a Google Meet. I’m sitting on my bedroom floor with my phone on speaker next to me, letting the voices wash over me. And all I feel is a sudden and overwhelming sense of relief, a loosening of this knot in my chest that’s been building for the last week of being at home. I listen to the voices of my teacher, Mr. Palshaw, and my classmates–a motley grab-bag of under and upperclassmen, of athletes and Mock Trial participants and everyone in between. People whose names I didn’t even know last August.
Now they bring me such comfort, I almost want to cry. In the past week, I’ve only seen my parents and, once, my best friend. But now thirty voices fill the space of my darkened, curtain-drawn room. I have never felt anything like it. I listen to people’s voices as they discuss story ideas, how they’re feeling, how the quarantine is affecting them emotionally and mentally. And up until this moment, I had never realized exactly how much I needed school. I needed people.
“You don’t miss something until it’s gone.” This is a cliche saying, one we’ve all heard more times than needed. Songs have been written about it (“Let It Go” by Passenger, a bop, FYI). But sometimes it rings all too true. Every day, when the students of Carmel High School get up at 5:30 or 6:30 a.m. or, for the brave souls, 7:00, we bemoan the idea of going to school and sitting at a desk for seven hours against our will. We hate the classes, we hate the people, we hate the cafeteria food, we hate the teachers. Everything just sucks.
But it doesn’t, and we don’t. Not really. When school is taken away from us by way of a pandemic for safety reasons, we suddenly feel empty. That may not be the case for everyone–I speak only for myself. But for the past week, I’ve walked around my house from room to room, aimless, listless, lifeless. It’s been hard to muster up the energy to do anything, let alone online assignments or tests.
It’s not just the education that Carmel gives us, although that is the basic point of school. It’s the feeling of being seen, being connected, being surrounded by a mass of people, always moving and laughing and talking. You may not know all of them–you may not know even half of them–but they are there. They hold you up like a life raft in a sea of people. Without them, I feel like I may drown if I don’t take steps to hold myself up alone: stay up on my schoolwork, go outside for a breath of fresh air, call my friends to check in on how they’re doing, build my own routine that, until now, school has done for me.
We don’t know how long this is going to last. I guess it’s going to last as long as this epidemic takes to slow down, for the curve of new infections to flatten. And as devastating as it may feel right now to us, staying home from school and missing prom and school events that we’ve waited our entire high school careers for…it’s a small price to pay. For the health of our community, it’s a small price to pay.
I don’t have anything particularly inspiring to say, except just hang in there. Reach out to each other. Keep each other afloat. Go outside, clear your head. One day, whether that’s in two weeks or two months, it will be OK. We will see each other, we will sit in those blue chairs attached to those scarred wooden desks, we will laugh and hug and maybe cry. We will jump like little kids and get back into the rhythm of AP classes and DePal’s poetry deliveries and swimming laps in the school pool, and we’ll complain about all of it, but inside, secretly, we will love every second.
Or maybe we won’t–maybe we’ll come back next August, with a whole new set of teachers and classes and classrooms and things to complain about. And for seniors, maybe they won’t get a chance to say a real goodbye to the school and the community that has held them, let them grow and learn for four years, and that sucks so much. As a sophomore, I will never know how that feels, but I can empathize. And I am so, so sorry if that happens.
But whatever happens, if we come back to school (whether Carmel High or a university) in April or May or August, we’ll be OK. Whatever happens, we will be OK. Because we are Padres, and we’re what? WE ARE NOT NORMAL!!!