Opinion: Readjusting to in-person school takes time

Amy Wang, Editor-in-Chief

Cartoon by Amy Wang.

After a year away from campus, I thought it would be a relief to return to at least a semblance of normalcy. And it has been a relief: a relief to see old friends, and a relief to make new ones. A relief to be able to talk to my teachers outside of a screen. A relief to stand outside in the quad and laugh with classmates. I’m glad to be back in-person, and I’m glad that we’ve taken this step forward in returning to some form of pre-pandemic life.

Yet, in the midst of all these things that I so appreciate, I’ve come to realize the exhaustion that comes with being back in class, after so long away.

I first began to feel the adverse effects of being in-person for school while doing homework one night during our second week. My mind buzzed faintly with fatigue, and I spent nearly 15 minutes reading the same passage again and again, trying to drill it into my brain. I had only just finished as the clock struck 1:00, an unpleasant reminder that I had six hours left to sleep before needing to get up and repeat the exhaustive cycle. Whereas before, I could roll out of bed five minutes before my Zoom started, I now have to get up much earlier, because the action of getting into the classroom just takes so much more time.

Before I came back to school, I hadn’t realized just how freeing being at home really was, especially when it came to the flexibility of my schedule. Some of this freedom was mundane; it manifested itself mainly in the fact that if I wanted to, I could do a hop, skip, and jump and be right in the kitchen, where I could fix myself a sandwich during our 10-minute passing periods. I no longer had to carry my textbooks around, and occasionally, if a class was let off early, or I had a few extra minutes, I could even slump over on the couch and take a 15-minute catnap. 

Even better, all of this was nothing compared to the relative efficiency of being on an independent schedule. If I wanted to, I could finish two classes worth of homework in a single free period, and that’s not to mention asynchronous Fridays, which provided a veritable bounty of free time. The lack of needing to rush from one physical space to another is something that might really only carve an odd thirty minutes or so out of the day, and yet the existence of those thirty minutes was something I enjoyed immensely about staying at home.

Being in person again has meant succumbing to the slow, ever-present time creep that comes with actually living, and to say that I’m not surprised at how big of a change everything is would be untrue. 

Even as some things, like commuting, take up so much more time, others have had their time slots taken away. Somehow, everything just feels so much more rushed, when I’m sitting in a classroom with 30 other people, all of us in the same space. Now that we’re all in the same spaces again, we’ve yielded a huge amount of control over our time to bell schedules, and traffic patterns, and alarm clocks again, all of which are things staying at home provided relief from. And adjusting to this rigidity again has been hard. Having to wake up thirty minutes before school started in order to get into class on time was certainly a jarring experience after I’d gotten so used to being able to roll out of bed and into my first-period Zoom.

I don’t say this with the intention of bemoaning our new return to campus. On the contrary. I’m grateful for this opportunity to reconnect with classmates and teachers alike. Yet it’s been a shock to realize just how adjusted I’d become to working from home, and just how imbalanced this new schedule feels. 

I’m sure that this feeling, like everything else, will pass. But it’s interesting to note its presence before it does go away. Like every other unexpected side effect of the pandemic, we should all take a moment to allow ourselves to adjust to this new, new normal, just as we adjusted to the old one.