Finally in the thick of school

I have always hated getting shots, COVID, flu - and I am sure I hated getting the chickenpox vaccine when I was young, too. Flu season would come around, and I would push off getting the shot until the leaves on the trees had curled and crisped and crumpled on the ground and the air had a hint of winter breeze. When I was younger it was the pain that scared me, but also the second of anticipation right before the jab.

I like to think I am a lot less scared now, but that second of waiting is something I still think about. I have now entered my junior year, and that moment before getting a shot is one of the only ways I can describe the start of school.

I've started a new school year for 11, no 12 times now, and the beginning always brings mixed feelings. The two weeks of summer beforehand are exciting as you ride off the high of vacation while shopping for colored pens and notebooks, romanticizing going back to school.

And for me, the first day is a little more exhilarating than it is nerve-wracking because you see a glimpse into what your year will be like. You get to meet your teachers - realize you had been imagining them totally wrong in your head - and then do easy introduction activities.

It is not until the next day when I feel that second of trepidation that I feel with shots. There is no routine to ground you. You are waiting to be able to joke around with your classmates, waiting to be tired from your weekly assigned readings and waiting to know your schedule like the back of your hand. Now, for the 12th year in a row, I have experienced that time of anticipation, the waiting until the first cool autumn day when you sit down in class and realize it does not feel weird.

But now that it's October, the wait is over. I have scrubbed all the glittery remnants of Homecoming off, survived a couple of calculus tests, learned about ancient caves in France and giggled with old and new friends at lunch.

It sounds cliché, but I am trying to embrace the little fleeting things more. So while yes, the first month is awkward and clunky, it is also slow, which means less homework and more time with friends and family. That anticipation is only a second, and now that I am in the thick of school, I am missing the simple pace of classroom introductions and syllabus readings.

I recently got my COVID shot, and I've realized that just like school, that moment of waiting isn't so bad after all.

- Leah Packer, a junior at Hinsdale Central, is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].