Katie’s Column: These past four years

Katie's Column: These past four years

As I gear up to start the next phase in my life, I can’t help but reflect on my time at John W. North. Through all of the overwhelming stress and late nights staring at those 11:59 due dates over distance learning it was easy to forget what I actually enjoyed about school. Then, when we came back I remembered. 

Before the lockdown I took a lot of moments for granted. There would always be a rehearsal next week or a club meeting tomorrow so why would I have viewed these individual moments as special. When everything shut down, I nearly completely isolated myself from everyone outside of my family. I felt bad for doing so but I had held on to hope that this would all be over soon. Craving for the normal, the everyday comforts that school and theatre had provided me. 

There is something so special about walking through the school hallways with a friend or two. These short conversations, not long enough to find awkward pauses yet long enough to get something off your chest. To be able to share a random thought you had in the previous class, relatively unimportant and certainly not interesting enough to start a text conversation about. This is just one of these unique and simple recurring moments that high school gave to me, a chance to connect with others about any mundane topic.   

Companionship of constantly seeing other people in similar situations was one of these key factors that I missed over lockdown. The morning of a physics or calculus exam, everyone would have their study guides out and frantic looks in their eyes. We would all hope our early teachers would give us enough time to review a problem on the whiteboard or just a little time to ask other students if they knew at all what was going on in that class. Over distance learning we had none of this. I constantly felt that either I was getting dumber or that I was being ridiculous being stressed out about a simple exam. Seeing everyone else in my classes having the same types of reactions to the work assigned always made me feel like part of a community. A stressed out and possibly ridiculous community, but still a community. 

North gave me newspaper, a window into who I want to be. What makes me happy, keeps me on my toes. Through the many articles about local politics, school events and every school board decision I was never bored. To have a chance to possibly make someone more aware of an issue or gathering in their community, after all of the work that went into each piece, without fail made me fall in love with journalism. That first day of school sophomore year pointed me towards a dream career, political reporting, that otherwise might have never crossed my mind. 

I’ve learned to stop talking to people who harm my mental health. Through this absence of human connection, I began to notice whom I actually missed and whom I felt better without. Previously I never really listened to these thoughts in the back of my head about people I know I should care about, why does this person make me feel so pointless or why does this person always leave me behind. There was no real reason why these questions never turned into any real change in whom I considered to be a friend, just that actually exploring these questions could have made life difficult. But I am worth surrounding myself with people who don’t make me ask these questions. I often wonder now how much better my high school experience could have been if I listened to those voices in the back of my head, and stopped playing into these people long before the term “distance-learning” was commonly known. Now I know that I do have the power to break out of these harmful friendships without having a “falling out.” I’ve simply moved on to better people and hopefully won’t fall into these situations again. 

North let me grow into the person that I am today. In middle school I was certain that no one would ever want to be friends with me, an idea I nearly embraced. I would push people away and never let the possibility of a friendship enter my mind. With a fresh start in high school I started to work on this line of thinking that had almost consumed me. Through my two years in choir and my time doing community theatre, I was able to find myself again. The chance to perform on stage, like I had always loved to do, reminded me that I loved making people happy and entertained. I love to make people laugh or just forget about the outside world for just a little while. These performing groups allowed me to build friendships again and regain my outgoing personality from my childhood. Standing in the wings before a song or scene, with all of my friends by my side, broke me out of this fear of never being liked. 

High school gave me independence from what I was always supposed to do. Let’s be honest, I didn’t have a wild high school experience although I did appreciate choices. I could choose my attitude toward high school or community theatre, what classes I could take and the goals I was working towards. The feeling of control for the first time in my life. My choices could lead towards my future or away from it but either way it was me. 

At the end of the day, all of those assignments I stressed over nearly at my breaking point really didn’t matter as much as the people I met. Eventually I learned what kept me focused. I figured out just how much time I really needed to be doing activities other than school. Although this made my schedule packed with rehearsals and club meetings, this hustle and bustle was what kept me motivated. Even when people would say that I should free up my schedule so I could sleep or study more for each exam, I realized that I thrive solely when I’m constantly doing something. Regardless of what time I went to sleep, I knew I couldn’t set a limit on the time I spent with others and time spent doing what I love. Although the stress I felt while doing all of my homework in just a few hours before the sun came up again was very real, if I wasn’t able to do all of these activities the assignments would have never been completed. 

As I leave North in around a week from the time this column is published, I’m so glad for everything high school has given and taught me over these past four years. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to appreciate these little aspects of high school that beforehand seemed relatively unimportant. Thank you to everyone who went with me through these years and helped me thrive, I can’t wait to see where you all end up.