It’s a first for everyone: Embracing uncertainty

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Credit: Sophia Evans/Chronicle

Sarah Mittleman, Opinion Editor

When students departed for what we expected to be a two-week quarantine, I was a sophomore who had yet to experience a full year at the Upper School. I hadn’t started behind-the-wheel driving lessons, I still struggled to analyze text in English and Seaver Academic Center and Munger Science Center were indistinguishable to me. 

Now, in 2021, I return as a senior. Over a year has passed since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and during those months my junior year came and went. Each year of my high school experience has felt more bizarre than the last, and this one takes the cake—even as school starts up again, I just don’t feel like a 12th grader. 

I used to imagine senior year as the spectacular culmination of my high school career, one final hurrah. I should be entering this year confident that I know how to end off my high school experience on a strong note; instead, I’m still trying to learn things I should have discovered in 2020.

I would love to say that I have emerged from quarantine ready to lead the unprepared sophomores and juniors through this challenging adjustment, but honestly, I’m just as baffled as the rest of the student body. 

I didn’t have the junior year of my dreams, but it was not all bad: I had the benefit of studying from the comfort of my own bedroom, rather than finding myself stuck in daily 5 p.m. traffic on Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Many of my teachers were incredibly understanding throughout the year, treating students with compassion. I still managed to make friends and discover myself. There were aspects of online school that I believe we should not discard, like saving paper and remaining empathetic to each other.

Nevertheless, we learned last year that online school is deeply unsatisfying and unbelievably frustrating. Trying to comprehend math when my internet moved at a snail’s pace and my microphone glitched every few seconds was practically impossible. Focusing on U.S. history while my dogs yapped in the background and my parents mowed the lawn directly outside…You get the point. Most importantly, I missed the camaraderie that comes from struggling through anxiety and stress together, the new friends I would greet in the halls and the thrill of watching my classmates’ football game.

That’s what I’m hoping for this time around. I cannot wait to come back and enjoy what I missed out on. Even if I struggle to motivate myself to wake up at 6 a.m. to drive to school, I can spur myself on with the knowledge that this will be my first and last full year on campus, and I need to make the most of it. 

I may not feel like a senior just yet, but I’m making it my mission to, at least, feel like a student. I skipped over a large portion of high school, so I have decided to appreciate every single moment of the year I have left. No, I don’t exactly know what I’m doing, but neither do any of my peers. 

To quote “High School Musical,” “We’re all in this together.”

Click here to read Assistant Opinion Editor James Hess’s perspective.