I finally have a normal school year and I plan to make the most of it

This First Person column is the experience of Ayesha Badiola, a Grade 12 student in Steinbach, Man. Since September 2020, she has been diarizing her experience as a high school student during a pandemic for CBC Manitoba.

For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

It’s that time of the year. Earlier this month, students in Manitoba headed back to school, and for me, it’s my final year of high school. 

After an abrupt stop to normalcy in March 2020, students faced remote learning, mask mandates and many rule changes. It took a toll on many areas of our lives, including our social well-being, mental health and learning experiences.

Basically, we had to hit the brakes on our plans and adapt to a new normal.

We’re back to normal, or at least, as normal as it can get after a global pandemic.– Ayesha Badiola

I started my diary entries in September 2020 as a Grade 10 student. I was still figuring out high school, all while adjusting to these new restrictions. Two years later, I finally have the chance to experience and write about a normal school year, just in time for my senior year.

Gone are the days of directional arrows in the hallways, mandatory mask use and constant sanitation of classes after every period. Hopefully, those don’t have to make a return.

Speaking of mask use, at this point, walking through the halls and being surrounded by faces — in clear view, with no masks — is nothing new. 

In the past two years, students were split up into cohorts, placed close to two metres apart and maintained distance between each other. 

In 2020, Ayesha Badiola started high school life in the throes of pandemic restrictions. (Submitted by Ayesha Badiola)

But physical distancing is now a precaution of the past, and it’s a thought that hasn’t even crossed my mind as of late. 

We’re back to normal, or at least, as normal as it can get after a global pandemic.

The grad fashion show will be back and we expect the long-missed grade wars to make a return as well. Grade wars is a series of games and challenges where students in each grade team up and compete against the other grade teams. They battle it out for bragging rights and the win. From musical chairs and dance battles to human hungry hippos, school spirit comes alive during this afternoon. 

Yesterday, I was brand new to high school and now, we’re talking about what I want to do after graduating.– Ayesha Badiola

Even before the start of the school year, grad dress and suit shopping began, and excitement was through the roof. I already have mine picked out, but this part was tough as there were many dresses to choose from.

Conversations about scholarships, post-secondary and other plans after high school are becoming more frequent. Talk about information overload.

Many have asked me about how it feels to finally be in Grade 12. It’s a mix of emotions. I’m excited, unsure and baffled at the same time. 

Yesterday, I was brand new to high school and now, we’re talking about what I want to do after graduating. It seems like I should have my life planned out (spoiler alert: as many have told me, you don’t!). 

However, the same six words always seem to come out.

“I don’t want to grow up.” 

Yet, here we are, stepping on the last train. The destination? Wherever life may take us. 

To the class of 2023, you’ve made it. While we are only on month one out of 10, don’t let it slip away into a moment in time. Let’s enjoy this year and make the most of the final chapter. 

This column is part of  CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.