Editor’s Note: You can listen to Johana’s Podcast, Community Highlights, by clicking here and here.
When I started my senior year of high school, I was not as worried about getting into college or getting my finances sorted as I probably should have been. Most of my worry was actually around a goal that seemed small compared to it; I wanted to do something that I enjoyed. Something that was just for me. I have been a full online student with Epic Charter Schools for several years, 8th grade to 12th, but most of that time was just spent doing my assignments or, in my junior year, doing a couple of concurrent classes. There was not a list of impressive activities on my transcript around winning a prestigious music competition or going to a state with a sports team or even just doing some volunteering. It was just me and my school work which was doing pretty well until I started concurrent classes.
When the idea of doing some concurrent classes was brought up, I was ecstatic. “Finally! Courses where I could learn stuff I’m interested in and maybe meet new people!”, I thought as we went through the process of getting me signed up. I even applied to OU and got in. But once again these classes were online and when it came to actually doing them, it was a struggle. I had several writing assignments that needed to be done, teachers who were helpful but I still did not feel comfortable reaching out, and I did not meet new people like I had hoped. Ultimately, I lost my motivation and stopped doing most assignments mid semester. One can imagine how that turned out.
It was hard starting senior year like that. When I had to meet up with my teacher to sort through what classes I would be doing, I said that no, concurrent classes were not currently an option because of my college GPA. This was, of course, after having already gotten berated by my father over the very same thing on the ride there. Though, at that meeting I was able to question my teacher on a program I had heard about from my previous teacher that would allow me to make a podcast while still earning high school credits. My teacher said he would get back to me and sometime later I got an email on how to sign up for Epic News Network (ENN).
When I signed up, it was really an excuse to maybe try something new behind the protection, “I’m earning class credits for it”. A slight nudge to myself that maybe it’s time to start something just for me. Which worked and all it took was a small conversation between me and our ENN teacher, Phil Cross, about what I wanted to do for my podcast. I have only gotten a few episodes up this year but I did them! It really will be something I miss when I graduate. Throughout this year, I have found myself questioning why this class when I meet up and see students on a weekly basis, even going to the point to attend an awards ceremony with them that I had no stake in, made me feel better than I had when I attended the college class meetings. I think that just in the end, I was more prepared to do this project on my own in a way that I had not really felt about anything for a while.
My motivation has been heavily based on others, the thought of going to college and meeting people, looking forward to having friends that would like to play board games, or just not wanting to be an only child and still disappoint my mom, despite doing so many, many times. During those concurrent classes, when I sat down for each Zoom meeting or thought about the group project I ended up doing alone, the pain of missing being with people came flooding back along with the realization that I was not going to fit myself in as easily as I had when I still went to a brick and mortar school. It had been years but I still missed sitting around a lunch table with friends and talking about normal things like Pokémon cards or how awful school dances are. I miss getting to walk through the school entrance, just to sit down and frantically try to finish the homework I ‘forgot’ to do. I missed just being around all these people who each had their own story to tell and let me be part of it. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that ache in my chest, knowing that on the bad days I will still dream about playing with old friends during recess and find myself hoping that I will be able to fit myself like a lost piece of a puzzle into some new friend group. But at least now I feel a bit more ready to move on as I get my high school classes wrapped up and look forward to taking college classes in the summer, this time as a full time student.
I’m glad I took the chance to push myself to do something new this year, I will be able to look back fondly on these times instead of with the carelessness I started the year with. Slowly but surely, I will push myself to be comfortable with just myself and let others be a welcome addition instead of a crutch to push myself forward on. I might not have the nice extracurricular activities that would be helpful in transferring to a four-year college but I have a driver’s permit that lets me drive when we get groceries, a t-shirt proving I volunteered at a book sale, and a newfound desire to be happy with my choices even if they are only for me.