Breathless: One student’s experience of returning to in-person school amidst a pandemic

Briana Kirchhoff, Staff Writer

I remember climbing to the top of a hill when I was little. I was higher than I’d ever been before. With nowhere else to go, I rolled right back down it. I burned my limbs on the grass before I reached the bottom, but the pain felt like nothing compared to what my mind did. I was happy and breathless, something I’d never felt before. Ever since I’ve been searching for that feeling again.

The closest feeling I have to compare is when I returned to school after COVID. I was breathless, breathless only because I couldn’t let myself breathe this time.

My friends were excited to talk to people without a screen. People were elated to experience life again, but I was terrified that I’d get thrown back into the protective box that is my home if I grew comfortable.

I knew how so many other people were feeling, so I wondered why I didn’t feel that, too. I worried I was being selfish for not wanting to go back to in-person learning. So many people had awful quarantine experiences, and I understood people needed to go back, yet I still felt paralyzed.

Returning to school was more challenging than before the pandemic. Knowing I had to continue pretending everything was normal made it worse. The life we are living is not ordinary, and I think the uncertainty of whether it will ever be normal again scares me the most. It was hard to get up in the morning, knowing that I had to go back to a place that caused so much anxiety.
Now that I’ve spent more time back at school, it’s gotten manageable, but I still find myself wishing I could go back to online learning. What has helped me the most is realizing that I’m not the only one going through this.

No one is alone; we all have to accept what happened and help one another. Check-in on others, offer help to those who need it, spend time outside, and most of all, just be patient with people.

In reality, there is no one solution to our troublesome transitions, not one I’ve found myself, anyways. Listening to one another and accepting the changes we’re going through are just some little things that can help us all get through this.