Finding Home and Happiness During a Pandemic

I was giddy when the plane touched down. Shaking off the lingering sense of nausea, I dragged my carry-on bag out of the overhead compartment and fidgeted with the handle.

I was giddy when the plane touched down. Shaking off the lingering sense of nausea, I dragged my carry-on bag out of the overhead compartment and fidgeted with the handle. Once I finally dragged my suitcases into my room, I had a sense of optimism so strong that nothing weaker than the force of major assignments week could have shaken it. I spent the weekend unpacking and attending House meetings. Then, it was right into quarantine classes. Those two weeks of virtual classes from a wooden chair and desk were draining; we had to deal with all of the disadvantages of learning through a screen while having none of the freedom of being at home However, I frequently thought about the international students on the Remote Learning Option who were in completely different time zones, going to school in the dead of the night. It’s safe to say that while we were all struggling, most of my problems were of my own making. I believed that once I was back on campus, I would be content again. Of course, I knew Lawrenceville was far from perfect and even antagonizing at times, but I truly believed being on campus would bring me the motivation and drive that the spring quarantine had sucked out of me. This misplaced belief was the most egregious mistake I made this year, not pulling that all-nighter to write my religion final.

My biggest mistake was believing that the Lawrenceville campus would be some magical place capable of fixing me up without my having to lift a finger. I thought that being on campus would instill some sense of purpose in me and forcefully steer me on a path to success, both in my academic and personal life. Burdened by these unrealistic expectations, I was burnt out quickly. I lost motivation, and I stopped seeing the point of doing things. I couldn’t find the purpose in attending club meetings or doing an extra set of practice problems to study for a test. In retrospect, believing that Lawrenceville would make me happy was, ironically enough, the roughest stage of my Lawrenceville career.

Returning to campus in the spring could have been the experience that I had hoped for if I had realized that no external force could make me permanently content. If I had started to put myself first and do things that made me happy as opposed to waiting for something to make me happy, this fall would have been an amazing term, and I would have been actively involved and excited to do things: getting a negative memo would pull me into a state of resignation for a day, but earning myself a positive one could make my week. Instead, I went through the motions, doing things because of perceived necessity rather than desire. I blindly attended clubs; I went to the Zoom meetings because I felt that I was obliged to, but I didn’t really contribute to discussions. After going completely virtual for Winter Term, I came back to campus for Spring Term with a new understanding of what was really important: me. All the extra time from being virtual allowed me to think about what went wrong during my Fall Term and why my outlook on life at Lawrenceville was so backward. The echo of “take time for yourself” when there wasn’t really much time to do so felt like a mockery during the Fall Term. I was tired and unmotivated during that time. Granted, I still feel that way sometimes, but now I know to ask for an extension when I need one. I know that sometimes you can give up doing a night of Spanish homework to climb into bed an hour earlier. Now I know that at an institution like Lawrenceville, happiness and comfort aren’t given to me. I need to take the initiative, I need to make time to take care of myself.

Sophomore year is often known as the “filler year” of high school. Yet, for me, my III Form year has taught me how to navigate life here at Lawrenceville, no matter how unconventional and strange things may get. Out of all the classes I’ve taken and all the ones that I will take, none have taught me or ever will be able to teach me what I learned this year—put yourself first, and the rest will follow.


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