Editor’s Note: The Source is pleased to publish the winning essays of the Charlotte Amalie High School students who competed in the Alpine Essay Contest, offering their perspectives on living through a pandemic, and their hopes for the future as we prepare to enter a new year. The following essay by 11th-grader Ariel Paul is the second of four we’ll present in the coming days.
There was a time that I used to beg my mother to homeschool me. However, every time I would ask, she would shoot me down. There were different reasons for it; she said she was too busy, for one, but she also told me that peer interaction was necessary to develop and homeschooling me would take that away. “I already interact with people,” I would argue. “Why should I go to school? I can learn more on my own.” Whenever I said this, she would give me a knowing smile. It drove me crazy at times. It was only when COVID-19 came along that I understood what she was trying to tell me. The pandemic affected my life in many ways, but most of all, it taught me the importance of the communities I previously took for granted.
I did not hate school; I just thought I could do without it. Quarantine seemed like the perfect compromise. I could do class from the comfort of my own home and avoid those pesky human interactions I disliked. The first thing I realized about online school is that it was hard to focus. The second thing I realized is that I missed the practice of going to school. Getting up early, dropping off my sisters, going to class— the things that I thought were tedious ended up being the things I missed the most. I missed the talks I would have with my mom on the way to school, and the conversations with friends at lunch and in between classes. Yes, school caused me to feel annoyed and tired at times, but I had failed to realize that a large part of school was the community I had unknowingly grown to love.
Throughout my life, most of my friends were “school friends”: friends that I would talk to in class, but outside of school, we would rarely speak. This was mainly because of my inability to reach out. Even when I got a phone in seventh grade, my access to messaging apps was restricted. The pandemic forced me to broaden my horizons. I got closer with people from my church as we bonded over how the pandemic had affected us and bonded with people from my classes over online games. All this made me miss life before COVID more, because now I had people that I wanted to share my experiences with in-person, not through a screen.
In the end, the effects that the pandemic had on me were nothing like I expected. I was one of the many who expected a two-week vacation. It is funny how sometimes it takes a bad situation, like COVID-19, to open our eyes to what has been in front of us the whole time. For me, my eyes were opened to the amazing communities I am fortunate to be a part of. As a result, my horizons were forever broadened.