‘Back-to-home shopping?’

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Every school year comes around with the same pattern. I go back-to-school shopping, have a fun first day catching up with my friends and then I start to realize this year is going to be a bit harder than the last.

Last week I geared up with my mask, gloves and hand sanitizer and drove over to Target to do my back-to-school shopping. As I was picking out my binders for my classes, I started to consider how different my upcoming junior year was going to be from previous school years, and I almost had a panic attack. 

It was two weeks before the school year customarily started, and my high school hadn’t even given us our class schedules. The uncertainty of this school year hit me at that moment. I didn’t know what the future would look like. In front of the notebooks, I began debating what supplies would fit my junior year vibe. 

My sophomore year was an anxiety-filled mess. Walking past the wall of backpacks, I saw a light blue bag identical to my 10th grade backpack; I didn’t bring it to school often because I was absent more days than I was there. Last year, however, the variable was me, not my high school. What would happen if I started to spiral? How would I navigate my mental health among all of this uncertainty?

Picking out a new computer cover, I suddenly realized that this year I would have to make social connections through a screen, camera and microphone. Junior year was already supposed to be the hardest year of high school, and now I wouldn’t even have my best friends by my side. 

I reminisced about when I used to see my best friends every day and bond over lunch. Passing the cute elementary school lunch boxes, I remembered how we would catch up and talk about our days, but that wasn’t going to happen this year. School was tolerable because of the atmosphere and the people around us, but now, I was not going to get to see my people. Instead, this year my “school environment” was going to be my room, in my tiny house with very thin walls. What if I didn’t get to know anyone? 

As I checked off the last of the supplies on my “back-to-school list,” a strange sense of calm finally washed over me. While I was uncertain going into this school year, I will overcome it because I am prepared. My junior year scares me, but I know it will be better than the last one.

Contact Sonali Muthukrishnan at sonali.muthukrishnan ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Sonali Muthukrishnan is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.