I hear a knock on my door—quiet at first, then growing louder. The doorknob twists, but I had locked it to prevent any unwanted intrusions.
“It’s me. Come here!”
Even though she says this with a sense of urgency, I know that the real reason my sister wants to enter my room is to show me a TikTok, or to ask for a new book or Netflix recommendation. Things haven’t changed one bit.
In high school, my sister (who is three years younger than I am) hung out with me all the time. We went to swim practice, to football games, to Target on pointless trips. Now that we’re home together, we have been able to pick up where we left off, goofing off and gossiping just like we did two years ago. The one marked difference is that many of my clothes that were unfortunately left at home are now in her closet.
When my sister and I aren’t watching Glee or making TikToks (on her profile of course—I’m not cool enough to have my own), I camp out in my room. I sit in the same stiff wooden chair and at the same slightly too-tall desk as I did before I had even thought about applying to college. The harsh light from my metal lamp beams on my Contemporary Civilization books, just as they did on my high school history textbooks. Candles still overpopulate my shelves. And, of course, in the corner are my childhood stuffed animals, my beloved Webkinz included. On the bookshelf at the far end of my room, I see the books that I read in high school for AP lit, or just for fun. In my closet, my prom dresses hang and my swimsuits are neatly tucked on a shelf.
But the part of my lifestyle that is the most reminiscent of high school is the time I spend in online classes. My high school had limited course offerings—to take Advanced Placement classes other than biology or literature, I had to turn online. I sat at the desk in my room to study a slew of AP classes, from comparative government and politics to United States history, and other specialized courses, like American Sign Language. My senior year, only two of my eight classes were in person.
My own introverted tendencies are actually highly compatible with the online course system. Maybe it’s the fact that, to a certain extent, I enjoy living within my comfort zone. Taking classes at home is predictable, familiar.
In high school, for homework and studying for tests, I prefered to work alone. I had a system, rotating between notes, flashcards, and prep books. I spent many hours working at that combination of wood and metal. On that very desk sat my planner: my entire life. The only discontinuity in my life was that I moved out of my purple room for a couple years in high school (the blue room across the hall had a bigger closet) just to move back into my purple room again.
Though I wasn’t the only one who took online classes at my school, I certainly took more than any of my friends. I sat in the computer lab at school, with some friends floating in and out, but depending on the semester, I was alone for most of the day. I stayed positive; I was able to get a lot done alone in the computer lab and then alone at home.
But at Columbia, I worked alongside friends. Instead of heading up to my room to sit in solitude while I completed a quiz for one of my online classes, I would join my Butler buddies after dinner at Ferris. The social benefits came along with stress. In high school, I casually completed my physics homework while listening to music without worrying too much about my final grade. In Butler, I scrambled to understand Contemporary Civilization enough to pass a final exam, and write a final paper that counted toward half of my grade.
My purple room wipes away some of the worries specific to life on campus, allowing me to pretend to be the relaxed, recently-graduated person that I was at 18. I do laundry without worrying about my clothes being taken out of the dryer and live without the heavier responsibilities intrinsic to challenging courses, demanding clubs, and complicated interpersonal relationships.
In high school, I lived in an endless cycle: wake up, school, after-school clubs, swim practice, homework, sleep. The ins and outs of my day were the only things that I could rely on, and a defining aspect of my teenage years. But since coming to Columbia, and especially since the beginning of my sophomore year, any sense of routine has gone out the window. Like many other college students, I don’t have a regular sleep schedule or work schedule. But at home, I revert back to my teenage schedule (aside from the activities that require leaving the house).
Instead of working in Butler until an embarrassingly late time of night, I am in bed at a reasonable hour so I can wake up bright and early, like I did in high school. Street noise from Amsterdam has once again become the hum of birds and bugs—with the moo of a cow here and there. And of course, rather than rolling the dice by grabbing dinner at John Jay, I get to dine in the kitchen—or in front of the TV—with my sister, eating whatever we’re craving.
On some nights, I’m the one who goes to knock on my sister’s door.
“Hey, can I come in?”
I sit next to my sister, this time asking for her advice, or (more likely) expecting her to listen to me complaining about whatever happened that day. She listens, ready to respond with the perfect TikTok.
Enjoy leafing through our seventh issue!