This time of uncertainty has stunted a lot of emotional growth for me. It has been a time of feeling disconnected, hopeless, and alone. I have this great desire as a person to seek out the presence of others to help me feel grounded, so naturally, I had a desire to be back in school, surrounded by people. To be back in a space of differences and to have those conversations I’ve had over the last 12 years. The first day back to school, however, was one of the most disappointing days for me.
The distance between us has affected the school, aware of it or not.
“Interactions and conversating are totally different,” junior Tate Kessler said. “Physical distance can affect your emotional distance.”
Emotional distance is more important than ever. As a school, we are connected by our shared experience and routine. We are connected through conversation and just showing up and being here, but this year it seems, has taken that freedom of relationship away.
“We are all interconnected,” Kessler said. “Each and every interaction you have with a person can alter their mood and thinking. A smile or being positive can go a long way, even though it may seem hard when you are dealing with your own problems.”
Kessler’s idea that we are connected through interaction is very prevalent in our situation at school. If we are connected through interaction, then that is where the problem of this school year lies. In most of my classes, there is only silence. Working constantly online has taken away the biggest opportunity we have, coming to school.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, among high school students, more than 70% struggle with anxiety.
I can speak for myself when I say that I am apart of that percentage. Anxiety affects almost every aspect of my day. If that many students struggle with their mental health then what can we do?
“My advice to anyone who feels like they are struggling with anxiety or depression is to reach out for help,” junior Abby Loethen said.
I would agree that reaching out is a large refuge for dealing with mental health, but how are we supposed to reach out when we are all separated by distance and silence.
We sit in rooms together all day, but to me, it doesn’t make much difference. I come to school and I sit down next to people I don’t know every day.
For someone extroverted, even my voice feels like it’s been cut off. There are many fears in high school as is, but this year has added a few additions; the fear of making someone uncomfortable because of physical and emotional limitations. The masks feel like walls between me and the person in front of me. As people, we create walls of our own. Now, we have mandatory walls. For those who struggle with mental health, what is happening for them? Students can easily disconnect as is, but with masks and distance, it has enabled students the excuse to stop trying to reach out.
My encouragement to myself and you is that you don’t stop trying to connect even with every boundary. Humans were created to be of this world together. Space and distance and walls do not erase the fact that we are all connected. The only thing we can do in this time of uncertainty is to create a more connected body of students by reaching out. Being in school right now, we have the opportunity to break through the struggles we’ve faced over the last year. We have the opportunity to come to school and be present with one another, regardless of where you think your place is. Your place is not behind your mask, it is not behind your computer; your place is with the people around you.