By Carol Khorramchahi
The remnants of another world are still all around me, but that world feels so different. I live in a place where you can’t go outside. I’ve crossed universes into another planet. Is this the big disaster of my generation?
We grew up surrounded by the frills of the cinematic world, the movies where high school was portrayed as a place where you’d either look for the bullies pushing you into lockers or where the class would break into song, mid-class, with a perfectly rehearsed choreography and a freeze frame of them jumping, with graduation caps mi-air and red curtains closing on their school years. As a person that tends to go by the “glass half full” type of attitude, I chose the “High School Musical” route when dreaming of what’d it be like to be a “big kid.” Safe to say, this looks nothing like High School Musical.
Every morning for the past three years, I would come to my dining room and tell my mom “I don’t want to go to school today,” when choosing between waking up early and my bed. My mom always told me “be careful what you wish for, God works in mysterious ways and the universe is listening to everything we are saying now.” I’d laugh it off, I knew it was true, but I knew I could handle whatever God, or the universe threw at me that would make me not able to attend class. Or I thought I did anyway.
We later found that the seven days away from school, had turned into seven weeks, rapidly growing into seven months. Life was put on pause and put into an alternate universe. I remember writing the following extract mid quarantine, about three months ago, where the light at the end of the tunnel was nowhere to be seen. “This can’t be real. It’s everything but real. School isn’t a place you go to anymore, class is just an awkward video chat over your tablet. It’s odd, but not that bad. Did we ever see our friends in real life? Did we ever touch a pencil? Did we ever do school in a uniform? The remnants of another world are still all around me, but that world feels so different. I live in a place where you can’t go outside. I’ve crossed universes into another planet. Is this the big disaster of my generation? Is this the large event that we tell our grandkids about? I can practically see myself sitting in a rocking chair, telling my grandkids, “Oh I remember when that old virus struck… Everyone was so excited to get out of school… It was a different time back then.” It feels like I’m living through something big… so big that it fills up the outside air like a thick syrup. Every once and awhile, a little seeps in and you remember – it’s syrup outside. I could die out there. Then you throw the syrup away and try to forget. It’s all too easy to forget what came before – I think I already have.”
Flash forward to Monday, 26th of October, the infamous day we all counted down: back to school. I had it all planned out in my head, starting high school, university hunt activated, the beginning of the end. The wind howling as we arrive through the gates, hustling and bustling down the corridors. Friends greeting each other with a hug or a playful punch while newcomers would stand looking scared. The seniors standing, tall and proud, confidence born of experience. Soon the bells would ring and everybody would run except an occasional slowcoach or chatterbox. Everybody going in except one and all is quiet; smiling to myself. “Another school year begins,” I’d think before smiling and running in to join the others. Too cheesy? Thought so, but it’d be something along those lines.
Today, as I practically skipped through the school gates, without Mr. Bair’s high five, or Jackson’s huge smile, which I could only make out from the smile wrinkles around his eyes. I looked around, everyone 2 meters apart, with our strings tugging at our hearts, tempting us to get closer. I realised what growing up was all about, what being a “big kid” in high school consisted of: growing up. We lived through three years of middle school with our Portuguese teacher telling us, “You won’t make it in high school if you don’t mature, start to be a citizen of the world.” And that’s exactly what we did today. To mature one’s psychology requires ongoing effort for a lifetime, otherwise, like the ignored muscle, it can wither. It’s about being flexible, being the lamb in some situations and the lion in others.
So although I should’ve been careful about what I wished for a few months ago, although I should’ve maybe lowered my expectations going into high school, and although hugs won’t be happening so soon, we can still have our own High School Musical experience. Maybe not breaking into song mid class, not too sure Mr. Bair would find that funny. It may not have started the way we wanted to, but it will still end with our graduation caps mid-air, beaming smiles and butterflies escaping from the pit of our stomachs (masks or no masks).