There’s simply no way to sugarcoat this into anything deemed Hawken appropriate: this situation f***ing sucks. When we were dealing with the beginnings of self-quarantining during spring break, it felt like this physical vacuum of social distancing might not last long, that we might still get a normal end to senior year. Now, it’s hitting me that absolutely nothing will proceed as normal, despite Hawken not communicating this to us. Prom and graduation will most likely happen in the summer, if at all, and the spring OL trip, track season, the Wild intensive, and senior week seem to be images from an idealistic Disney version of Hawken. I’m obviously making more productive and probably fulfilling use of my time now than during break, but my emotional sine wave remains the same. Some days I feel productive and like I can handle what’s going on; other days I know I’m trending downhill when I start laughing at everyone, somewhere in between punch drunk and yauzd (see Urban Dictionary, I absolutely did not make this word up). At the bottom of the curve, sometimes I feel sad and disappointed, and sometimes I feel completely enraged.
My difficulty in dealing with social distancing at this time in my life has to do not only with my innate extroversion and the fact that I derive so much energy and joy from being around people, but also with how my priorities have changed throughout high school. Because I’m someone who is intrinsically curious and hardworking, I put my full effort and heart into my academics as an underclassman, believing that academic achievement was what mattered most and would make me feel fulfilled at Hawken. However, during my junior year, I realized that I was very quickly burning myself out on academics and that this mentality had caused me to miss out on friendships. My constant homework and business had even caused me to unconsciously distance myself from my own family. Since that realization, it’s been an ongoing struggle for me to redefine my priorities, especially since my image at Hawken often feels so set as a student who simply loves academic learning and is always content and high achieving in that space. Since I was accepted to Bowdoin college in December, I saw second semester senior year as a chance to set my priorities right: to put people and my personal health and happiness over the never-ending grind of honors and AP classes. Right now, I’m trying to make my family and friends the most important thing in my life, not only in my stated priorities, but also in the way I spent my time, and I know that many other seniors feel the same way.
However, being quarantined at home means that I’ve had one half of that equation taken away. Since I’m someone whose goal is always to try my best, it’s especially bothering me that quarantine is effectively preventing me from giving my all to my friends in our last months together, and that’s heartbreaking. Not having that time together anymore makes me kick myself that I didn’t find the amazing friends I have now until later in my Hawken career, and that I didn’t put much time and effort into those relationships until even more recently. I’m also terrified that leaving my close friends, most of whom will be at least ten hour drives from me next year, will feel especially painful because I haven’t been able to be fully present in this time. I feel cheated—I’ve put my heart and soul into Hawken, and I wanted to feel at the end of my four years that I got out of the experience what I put into it.
Ironically, during quarantine I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s okay that Hawken has not always left me academically fulfilled. I have a life of learning ahead of me, and my Hawken education, however beautiful and imperfect, is just one small part. At the same time, I’ve been able to appreciate other parts of my high school experience more. Ultimately, I think Hawken’s greatest gifts to me have been the people and extracurricular activities that have given me so much joy in high school.
I think I will always feel cheated when I think about this year. While my family is holding out hope that this time will teach me how to spend time alone happily, that I’ll find a new kind of introverted peace, I don’t think that will happen either. However, what can happen, and is already happening, is that I can make the most of this time with my family and use it to inform my priorities for the next four years at Bowdoin. I’m really enjoying and cherishing the time I’m getting to spend with my family, including baking with Leila, walking with Flash, playing basketball with my dad, and telling jokes with my mom. My dad realized that I needed more time “on” socially, so one day during break we took Flash for a walk, did 50 burpees in the front yard, went on a drive, and threw a baseball in the yard. Despite it being one of my angry days, I’m incredibly grateful for that day and the time we got to spend together, and it really helped my mood. What’s also helped my mood is keeping in touch with Hawken friends and connecting with my college classmates for the first time. My friends and I have watched movies over zoom, talked late into the night, and even gone on social distance walks and runs. And in our 200-strong Bowdoin ‘24 GroupMe, we’ve even discussed planning a redemption prom for the fall. What I hope, for myself and for my Hawken and Bowdoin classmates, is that at some point in the future we do feel some redemption for this experience. I also hope this time allows us to not only grow closer to our families, but also each other as we navigate the craziness through FaceTime rant sessions. Most of all, I hope that we appreciate the tangible and real experience of being physically together someday in a “redemption prom” kind of moment.