THE NEW NORMAL: New Connections

Ashley Park

It was supposed to just be that one day off school, which then turned into two weeks that became a month, and all of a sudden, we were facing the rest of the school year being online. I was in the eighth grade during March of 2020 when Virginia public schools officially closed their doors to all students for almost a full year. 

When school originally shut down, I was more focused on the fact that I got to spend a month at home than the actual pandemic and why exactly this was happening. The first month of quarantine was simply a month off school and we were to begin online school in the middle of April. Quarantine itself never had the same impact on me the way it had affected others around me. I had no issue with being stuck at home, and instead, I actually loved not having to worry about assignments, extracurriculars, and other personal stresses for once. I did not keep myself up to date with the happenings and statistics of COVID-19, and because of this, I had no predictions in terms of how long the pandemic would last. However, never in my life would I have thought that we would be dealing with something that has had as much impact as it had and lasted over two years. 

While some were left untouched, many aspects of my life have been changed as a result of the pandemic. While I had no problem with staying home and away from people we would otherwise be seeing daily, my social life became something that changed immensely as a result of COVID. I ended up losing contact with a lot of people from school, maintaining a maximum of three strong bonds with friends from school, and even then, I found myself unwilling to call or text them as time went on. While it was the distance that put a strain on a lot of my relationships, it was also my ever-decreasing motivation to put in the effort to keep them going. The change to online school was not rough at all for me. Of course, there were quite a few technical problems I remember several schools in our county dealt with, but otherwise, the transition was rather smooth. I was able to pick back up on lessons that were left with that last day of school. I had no issue in terms of actually learning through online classes either, and I rather enjoyed the feeling of self-paced learning, because I was able to be in charge of how I utilized my time and how I learned. 

I think that with the social disconnection, it will be extremely difficult for everyone to get back to a place of full comfortability in public. Transitioning back to in-person school was no easy feat for me and several of my peers, and I remember I found myself worrying about being able to make new friends after spending so much time on my own. Although I had no problem sliding back into what became my new normal, that won’t be the case for everyone, which is why I believe that even if the pandemic were to end, the effects of it will last much longer. If we were to go back to how things were pre-COVID, it would take a good amount of time. However, many people believe that they will be wearing masks for the remainder of their life, so returning to pre-COVID conditions may take a lot longer than we anticipate.