In the summer months before my kindergarten year, my parents toggled between sending me to the neighborhood elementary school versus taking the nontraditional route of homeschooling. At the time, homeschoolers were much fewer and far between than they are now in 2020, but still my parents decided to take the path less traveled. I could go on about the details of what prompted their decision, but ultimately they chose this journey because they viewed education as something that extended beyond a four-walled classroom. Homeschooling guided my thinking patterns to be those of constant curiosity and exploration as I was never taught a distinction between what was considered a classroom and what was considered the rest of the world. I didn’t hear a bell ring everyday that signaled when my brain should power up because everything was school: home, the great outdoors, and everything in between. I was, and still am a student of life, not strictly of a series of textbooks piled up with deadlines to accompany them.
There was always a purpose to the things I did or else I didn’t do them. There was always an answer to the “why.” If it didn’t matter, my mom didn’t have me do it, point blank period. No ifs, ands, or buts. If enrolling me in traditional school wasn’t going to teach me anything new academically that first year because I had completed most kindergarten subjects in the months before, I wasn’t going to do it. Looking at this now, I can see a correlation to my mom’s days working in the US Senate because her work there was very purpose driven.
I spent the days of my childhood following this rhetoric. I was always highly aware of why I was learning whatever I was learning. Why was I learning fractions? So that I could bake. Why was I learning about government? So I could be a better citizen. Why was I writing persuasive essays? So I could more effectively communicate my wants. So I could get my ideas across. So I could do something and be something in the world. Yada yada yada. Busy work ceased to exist. My “whys” were kindly met with an answer, always.
While my college experience has been adventurous and filled with opportunity, it has also been a time of academic burnout, a feeling I rarely felt before college. During my time as a homeschooler, I had modules that I had to satisfy for each subject each month, but how I wanted to satisfy them was up to me, which is a method that’s foreign to the traditional American school system. To me, the world was a limitless place that was there for the taking, so I spent my days following my interests down their own respective rabbit holes, and then followed them some more. I did as much as I could with what I had because my passion for asking “why” ran endlessly through my veins, highly concentrated like oxygen in blood.
With age came new chances for my curiosity to stretch further than before. Somewhere along the lines of my mid teenage years, as interests became serious passions, I gave myself one rule: if I felt even an ounce of interest towards something, I HAD to pursue it, for not pursuing it would drive me to the territory of not knowing what could have been. It was during this time that I started to understand the power of destroying the idea of the arbitrary 4-walled classroom that we started with. It was then that interests I hadn’t thought much of previously were given the space to expand in ways I didn’t know were possible. Where others saw impossibility, I saw opportunity.
At the start of quarantine, I admittedly felt stuck. In the first days and weeks I didn’t do much besides grieve the life we were supposed to have, the events we had worked all year for, the final quarter with graduating senior friends we were supposed to enjoy. I’m undoubtedly still grieving those things, however as time began to pass, I was able to resort back to my old ways of treating my unscheduled time like the playground it was. I realized that quarantine has gifted me the breeding grounds for whatever I choose to make of it, and that I have a lot to relearn from my younger, homeschooling self who read books in the Jacaranda tree, dragged yarn through the house in an attempt to crochet the world’s longest jump rope, and who would spend hours doing research on wildlife conservation efforts. Through chasing my curiosity once again, I have felt the return of the zest for life I thought I might’ve lost. I want to recognize that this experience is coming from someone who has the privilege of staying home which I know not everyone has.
While there’s a thick feeling of desperation in the air to break out of our houses to return to our normal lives, I encourage you to consider all of the roads worth exploring right here, right now, that you abandoned somewhere along the way. While capitalist America is pouncing on you to be productive and commodify yourself, instead try taking the time to reconnect with the things that make you feel alive, whether you’ve already identified them or they are still awaiting your discovery around the corner. COVID-19 has turned lives upside down and inside out, taking our sense of control with it, but one thing we do have some amount of control over is how we choose to make the most out of this unique time. Your current and future self will thank you.