Once we come back to school, I imagine that we’ll all passionately embrace. As we grip each other tightly, our cheeks will be tomato-red not just because our computer cameras no longer hide our small blemishes of acne, but because we are excited to see each other. Just like the chaos that ensued at the announcement of the school’s closure, there will be a mass celebration full of Fanatics in every bleacher, crowds in the theater and a newfound sense of engagement, sincerity and earnestness we seem to have lost as sometimes jaded teenagers.
After that hug, nothing will be the same.
Right now, we are valiant in our efforts to retain routine, yet there is undeniably a new normal. For a while, we flocked to recently closed parks to go on the same number of hikes we normally would go on in a year, and we were tasked with responding to a life newly defined by one’s home. We’ve begun to emphasize mental health and physical health more than usual and explore nature, and even though we are more confined than ever, it has somehow taken those constraints to get us to open up.
Even in this article, I am merely reacting to what has gone on and expressing my hope that we all learn to be ourselves as much as possible, that we push for what we want and need, but I was not doing this a few weeks ago.
Although this pandemic is completely new to us, our response is natural. Due to a newfound abundance of time, we’ve tasked ourselves with self-improvement, taking walks and overall, trying to live the ideal scenarios depicted by an image on Pinterest. There is nothing wrong with us reacting to changing times and wanting something more, and these aspirations are entirely necessary. Still, this reactive culture can be problematic.
Looking back to the early 1900s during the Progressive Era, the conservationist and preservationist movements flourished amidst a society dealing with the mixed bag of urbanization. Flawed yet accomplished leaders who had previously created an industrial fantasy land out of nature, now longed for the opposite, a sort of pure, natural bliss.
Until the social distancing policy, I never really appreciated the opportunity that school offered me. I did not realize how much the deep bonds I made and even the small awkward waves I shared with acquaintances meant to me, how rewarding it felt to put in so much daily effort. I realized that I sometimes like doing work and running track even more than I thought, but I also realized I was doing myself a disservice. I realized that for an entire year, I kept telling myself I would enter the meditation garden at the church when walking from Upper Saint Michael’s to school, but I never did. Somehow I was not my holistic self, and somehow afraid of a peaceful flowing waterfall; I became one with my routine.
Unlike all of the people who ran to Fryman and Runyon Canyon to walk their dogs and enjoy the landscape, I’m too frightened to even venture out that far. Still, I participated in the rush of loneliness and resulting assertiveness in my friendships, getting over the fear I normally have to reach out because I knew nobody had any other options. Like Pink Floyd explains in its song “Wish You Were Here,” we are really just “lost souls swimming in a fishbowl,” and not to be a pessimist, but I think this really is true.
As I go forward, I want to challenge myself to not react, but to just be. We all miss what we had at school, and when we return to school, I am sure we will miss parts of studying at home. When I return, I plan to visit the meditation garden, wave to people staring intently at the ground and live a life saturated with vibrant color. If we all really are just trying to find our way, we may as well do what we want and explore the fun parts of the glass bowl, the SpongeBob house sitting in the gravel and the fake bits of coral the Betta fish love so much.
When we try to be original or do something new, the question of that choice’s predictability will always exist, but I would like to think it doesn’t matter. As the famous saying goes, all of the choices we’ve ever made have led us up to this moment, and we should respect that. For that reason, we may as well embrace our choices after careful consideration, truly respect ourselves and make our personal and communal greatness, whatever that may be, a constant priority.
Current times may seem unprecedented, but normal is bound to come back. I hope when we return, however, that we embrace both each other and the most unedited versions of ourselves. Then, for good reason, nothing will ever be the same.