By JULIA KURZ
I started this coronavirus break–from school, the world, my friends–determined to accomplish the series of goals that would result in the namesake of the operation on which I staked my sanity: Operation Glow-up.
It’s no surprise that the rest of the internet had the same idea. Countless videos of workouts, beauty routines, shopping sales and healthy eating meal preps that immediately inspire a vain kind of jealousy, poured from the endless spirals of feeds, stories and for-you pages.
But despite my half-hearted attempt in the first three days of quarantine, I failed. The mopey high school senior look was beckoning, and in that third day of weakness, I caved. There’s something undeniably cathartic about wallowing in pajamas, knee-deep in blankets and junk food, especially if I don’t have to see anyone.
So I turned to baking. Like I always do when I want to feel productive, but can’t seem to force myself in the pathway of useful productivity. It’s my happy middle when I’m anxious, sad and on the verge of burying myself in pillows and ice cream. I pounded out a double batch of orange rolls–a family recipe and a fan favorite–a batch of cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip pan cookies and chocolate croissants that tailed the rest and sadly revealed the signs of my pending exhaustion. At this point in my life, my KitchenAid mixer and I are on a first-name basis, and we frequent the golf course together.
After the storm I realized the flaw in my madness, my nearsighted blind spot. When I get in one of these frenzies, I solve the issue of the over-crowded kitchen counters, teeming with sugared sweets, by inviting people over and pressuring them into taking a share of the abundant stock. Quickly I sobered up, out of my sugary vanilla daze, and was greeted with the harsh reality that that was no longer an option. And then they sat on the counters reminding me of the fact that I couldn’t bring the leftovers to my classes or the mock trial team who, at this point in the year, have become well-acquainted with my spontaneous bursts of seasonal baking.
The trays of sweets were quickly and deftly moved to the depths of the oven. Out of sight, out of mind.
So then I turned to my creative side, begging her to come out of hibernation, her self-imposed exile, and my mind bloomed with ideas. The short stories I would write, the videos I would make–why not use this plethora of time to become TikTok famous?–the journaling, the poems, the seven-minute saga of a dance that I planned to choreograph for the May dance show: It was all so exciting, so suddenly within reach, all sprouting from half-baked ideas I’ve been harboring like a helicopter parent afraid of an empty nest.
And I wanted to do those things, I really did. I spent hours choreographing, made videos teaching the personalized steps and moves, and crafted a concept that would translate to a video format if the dance show never happened, which seemed to be a likely possibility. I worked on it anyways, though, because, well, what else did I have to do?
And I found solace in the creative process, in the words of the songs and the movement to the music, but I still missed being in that stuffy dance room that was always too hot or too cold, no matter one’s attempts to remedy the temperature. And I missed being able to bounce ideas off of each other and ask people what tricks they wanted to showcase and see my ideas come to life and watch as this group of dancers dances together.
It was the last song that had been cut into the medley–the one that was supposed to be the showstopper, the crowd-pleaser, the simple bow to the hard work of fast-paced leg work I had decided to stick on them–and I was lying on my living room floor idealess.
Now this is perhaps where my brain should kick into overdrive and nail out some effortlessly spectacular choreography, but nothing was coming.
All I could think about was how much I missed my French class. And my friends. And Mr. Schrier’s classroom. And how I wanted to be surrounded by people again. Something I never thought I would crave. I kept pitying my listless body as I racked my brain for a drop of creativity that might spur my subsequent completion of this project, but I came up dry. All I could do was think.
About school of all things.
I started thinking about how I was used to the standard complaining at this point…four years’ worth. The amount of sleep we get, the hours of homework, the myriad of activities we pile on our plates: We love it. To complain about it, to hate it, to wish it was over and to compare it to prison. Without it, though, we are lost.
It has been 14 years of school, including preschool, that I have been immersed in education. And I’m 17. Before that I was in the infant room at Carmelo, and I bounced around to several daycares in between. I have little recollection of a time before I went to school, and my life feels as though it revolves around it.
My mother put me in school a year early because I wanted to learn so bad, and she was worried I would grow complacent if another year ticked by. I remember up until middle school recounting my days to her with glee and excitement and love and gratitude about everything I was learning. But at some point I stopped. I think we all did. And it makes me sad.
Because now I feel both humbled and guilty, grateful and angry about what’s happening, and I am desperate to find a way to thank school for everything it has given me, but everything feels cut short, and I feel as though my moment is buried in the upheaval of the nation and the last couple of weeks. And I’m terrified I’ve lost it for good.
So thank you, in case we don’t go back, in case I never find a way to say it properly, thank you for my friends, my teachers, my passions and my goals.
Thank you for teaching me.