Published April 18, 2021
By ALICIA KRUEGER
As COVID-19 numbers quickly approached what would be their all-time high in mid-December, my father and I shared a conversation which I will never forget. I was emotionally exhausted, and it seemed as though no matter where I looked, I could only find obstacles. In the moment, he was referring to COVID-19 cases, but looking back, he taught me a very fatherly life lesson.
He told me, “Winter will be long and dark and scary, but one can only hope spring will be bright and beautiful.”
I believe spring has come. Correction: I believe spring has come for me, but I know it has not yet come for everyone.
Tomorrow, when we return to school, I hope we are mindful of this.
It is easy to recognize change when it occurs within masses. This year, we saw it with abundance because we all felt the pain of unlearning expectations. It is much harder to recognize change within the individual. High school tends to restrict individuality and encourage group conformity because you can only apply what you know and you only know what you see. Teenagers, by nature, are eager to apply what they learn from their peers.
As an incoming freshman, I begged my older sister to take me back-to-school shopping. I wanted the pair of sneakers and the backpack everyone else had. I asked questions like “Should I bring a lunch box or is that weird?” As an incoming freshman this year, my younger sister didn’t ask me these questions, nor did she want what everyone else had. Maybe she just has more confidence than I ever did, but she also has had nearly a year to discover what makes her feel good.
Carmel High School and the community that feeds into it are characterized by their so-called “bubble” — a geographic bubble protective over a relatively naive student body. There are incredible benefits to this, but a year alone spent outside of the bubble and away from relentless teen pressure and opinion made it easy for students to gain a new perspective. We are able to see, know and apply more now than when we were surrounded by hundreds of others just like us. That experience looked different for each of us and the perspective gained could have been freeing, restrictive or somewhere in between for an individual’s growth and contentment with oneself.
No matter the case, we are learning the lessons that come alongside new ways of being — lessons that can only be learned through experience.
No matter your experience or your peers’ experiences, there is a lesson that can be encouraged: Respect what the other has gone through or is going through because you likely went through it too. Provide support when asked and genuine friendship when not. Love one another while we find our own ways, and love those who have found their way.
Remember, many of your peers are nervous to return to school because they are not the same as when they left. But neither are you. So before you are quick to comment on someone else’s differences, internal or external, think back to who you were, what you cared about, how you looked and how you acted one exasperatingly long year ago.
Photo courtesy of BRIAN GRANBERY