Your Invisible Classmate


Remember 18 months of Zoom classes?  Now imagine doing that for eight years. I am a high school senior and yet none of you have ever seen me in the classroom. I am on a medical educational placement (MEP). This means that due to health reasons, I cannot attend classes. Most kids stay on MEP for a few weeks or months. I, on the other hand, have been on MEP for eight years. 

My day starts late, mostly because sleep is often elusive. Between the pain and the anxiety I feel, I often cannot calm down for sleep till past 2 AM. The morning brings a buzzing headache, making it difficult to see bright lights or hear voices. It is a supreme effort to arouse myself for the afternoon English literature class. While I can think fast, my reading pace is slow and my typing pace is even slower.  It is hard to focus on the screen, making reading a challenge. Writing is impossible because the tingling in my fingers means I cannot firmly hold a pen. Instead of writing, I type painfully slowly, one letter at a time, often making mistakes, so classes take a lot longer to finish and it is often frustrating. 

One would imagine that given the challenges, I would hate taking classes. But I would not trade these classes for anything. I get to learn math, English, history, economics, science, and many other subjects.Each subject takes me outside the narrow walls of my home to an agora filled with scholars. The world of online and Zoom brings all the content to a touchscreen in front of me and the school program has given me access to some great teachers. I am transported to Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Selma and sit in wonder under the Sistine Chapel. I find economics particularly fascinating as it mixes the certainty of cause and effect with the uncertainty of people’s behavior playing out on the world stage.

I don’t know what lies in front of me. While I want to keep learning, I am not sure that college and work are possible given my challenges and the pace of this world. What I do know, however, is that my path forward is no longer confined to the narrow walls and is now open to the possibilities in that open agora.