The world is so different now, and it’s weird to think about that. Yet the change that has happened is undeniable. At times, I wonder if people understand the extent this virus has had on nearly every aspect of our lives — we see it all around us. Change can be seen in the individual: the things I say, the things I wear, the things I fear. Change can be seen in the collective: the things we challenge, the things we fear. Change can be seen in the leaders: the frustration they show, the things they let slip by, the things they fear. And within all the noise, one thing can be heard. The world has changed and the world is different.
These are things that I am still trying to wrap my head around. I remember how March Break turned into quarantine, where one week became two, then three, then a month, then six. And coming back after the hiatus, we return to a shell of what high school once was. Across Canada, schooling at the secondary level has been crumpled into a bare-bones education system. The dangers of COVID-19 have forced governments to tear away the diversity of school life to protect students. And with it, all the things that make these years so memorable: the social life and extracurriculars. Without these pillars of high school life, it’s clear that we find ourselves sitting in uncertainty, looking at the reality of this new-age system. Questions undoubtedly follow: how will I keep in touch with friends? How will I be able to pass my classes? How will I be ready for life after high school? How will I achieve my goals? Issues that had existed before as a passing voice or a whisper now scream for answers. Everything has gotten bigger, louder, and scarier.
Okay, I’ve given my doomsday apocalypse prediction, but that’s not entirely helpful. So let’s talk about what can be done. One thing that is comforting to know during this constantly changing time is that not many things are actually different. The problems we face going into this school year are not new. There’s only one new thing, and that’s COVID-19. The only difference between the questions we ask ourselves now and before is that they are bigger, louder, and scarier, not different. There are answers out there that others have found to overcome these obstacles in the past. So in a way, not everything has truly changed.
The answers to these pre-existing problems are what high schools were designed to solve. As we transition from adolescence to adulthood, we must be guided and nurtured into becoming a person that is ready to face the world. High schools try to prepare students by instilling one simple idea; students must realize that they are the ones who control their lives. A little abstract, so let’s talk about that. Decisions and actions you choose to make will have clear outcomes and nothing is out of your reach – all you have to do is choose to try. That is why they give you a controlled environment full of opportunities, academics, and people. Every single thing that is offered to you in high school is something that you can achieve, that’s why they are there. High school’s believe every student has the potential to achieve their greatest goals, so they help support anyone and anything. But that luxury they provided no longer exists.
This is exactly what students need now more than ever, the courage and passion to explore and learn for themselves. To take a step in a direction not influenced by anyone else but them. To take chances and try and find opportunities that are hidden away. To rely on themselves as the one who brings forth options and choices, because that’s the only person who should be shaping their future.
And although high school no longer provides what it once did, there still are places students can get equal or greater opportunities from. High school is merely a smaller version of the world around us, and that means in this world we live in, there are the same opportunities and options. Scratch that, they are even better.
So in a way, the answer was technically in you all along. I like the sound of that, it’s so cheesy and cliche that I couldn’t possibly forget it. So start thinking, think about what you want to do, what you are missing, and what you want to achieve in this school year and the future. Start small and keep building on what you already know. Take a risk and make a decision, and then start walking towards it. Find ways to achieve it, because there’s always a path to follow, even if it’s not highlighted by anyone else for you. And have some comfort in taking those risks knowing that you are in control of your life and that you are the one calling the shots. You are walking your path, and it will be beautiful and fulfilling, all made by you.