By: Lauren Snowden
A floorboard creaks under the weight of many feet crossing over it even though no one stands on it now. Sweet songs of the birds as the natural world awakens drifts through the open windows of the house. My phone disrupts the peaceful morning as it blares to life on my nightstand. The screen is cold as I hit the snooze button once more. I can afford the extra few minutes of sleep-it won’t take me long to get to school.
I finally work up the nerve to roll out of bed. The house is so still I can hear my feet crunch the strands of carpet below them. Instead of my mom’s bright smile, a “happy first day of school” note awaits for me on the kitchen counter with a muffin besides it. My dog’s paws scatter across the floor as he runs up to me. He stares at my muffin with wide, hopeful eyes. He almost bites my fingers as I give him a piece.
The normal first day butterflies start to hum around my stomach as I pick out a shirt. Every first day of school, I always get the feeling my stomach might fall right out of me, butterflies and all. It is the same feeling as if I’m on a rollercoaster that only goes down, and my stomach keeps dropping and dropping in apprehension. I try to imagine what my teachers will be like, hopefully a mix of friendly and stern, to calm my nerves. What if I won’t have any friends in my classes this year? What if I get stuck in class with all the people I definitely don’t like, and it’s a project based class, and I can’t ignore them like I would want to? What if my computer crashes, or I can’t figure out a way to get into class? What if, what if, what if…
I finally decide on a shirt I had bought online. As I step in front of the mirror, I realize I never picked out a pair of pants to match. I shrug; it’s a sweatpants day. I make the short trip to school. Hastily, I close my blinds and curtains so they don’t create a mixed matched pattern of white light across my face. I am back in my seat and fixing my hair before my teacher comes in.
My eyes quickly scan across the screen. I finally see one of my friends and smile, but I frown as I realize she can’t see me. I text her good morning and tell her to look for me as we get settled into class. Everyone is quiet and stares back at our teacher with blank expressions. Instead of the expected first day excited jitters, I feel the awkwardness creep across the room as the silence stretches on. As my teacher introduces herself, I go through the names of all other students in the class.
This is my-our-new normal. Texts to friends instead of actual conversations. Strained necks and stinging eyes from hunching over a computer all day. Prolonged periods of awkward silence as teachers and students realize there is no opening for a deeper connection. Motionless black boxes with a boldly printed name as classmates. Teachers are so exhausted we can see them wilting and drooping further and further towards the ground each class session. A loss of life, unity, and perseverance as more and more students don’t show up to class or turn their cameras off. A new virtual world to pioneer or to fade into another black box.