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Morning in the Life of a 21st Century Student

Updated: Jul 16

Trigger Warning: brief mentions of sexual assault, gun violence

6:00 am -

You blearily wake up from a dream about a penguin clinging to the edge of a sheet of ice. In its eyes, it has that pleading, gut-wrenching look you always see in animals on National Geographic ads. It’s going to be a long day.

6:15 am -

You throw on a shirt with a dragon stitched on the back. You glance in the mirror and hesitate. Are you appropriating your own culture? No, that’s ridiculous – you’re literally Chinese. But maybe you’re trying too hard to take ownership of your identity; maybe you need to let your Asian-ness speak for itself without this stupid shirt. 隨便*, you don’t have time for an identity crisis; the bus is coming in 10 minutes.


6:30 am -

After rushing to eat some breakfast and haphazardly doing your eyeliner, you barely catch the bus. It’s still dark outside. Your mind wanders to the NPR story about how a bus driver sexually assaulted students who rode the bus — no, that wouldn’t happen to you, you’re safe, it’s okay — right?

6:45 am -

A friend gets on the bus. You chat about the usual: music, school, drama, makeup – “You look more Asian when you’re wearing eyeliner.” Oh. You hadn’t even considered that. You start spiraling. Should you be offended? It’s fine, it’s not worth dissecting.

7:00 am -

The bus passes the highway. The highway. It divides the picture-perfect suburbia with its huge houses and pristine lawns from the side of the town with smaller neighborhoods, broken windows, and police cars stationed in front of homes. You pass by unhoused people on the street and think that while you’ve been worrying about eyeliner, others in your city are scrambling for survival, either living paycheck to paycheck or without paychecks at all.

7:30 am -

The bus pulls up to your pretentious magnet school, where - despite its location in a neighborhood composed predominantly of communities of color - the majority of your student body is white. You’ve been thinking about how that might further gentrify the city. You wonder what you should do about it – you wonder what you can do.

7:45 am -

You meander through the hallways, teenage angst kicking in. What do you do before class starts? Lean against the lockers? Scroll through your phone, reading whatever depressing news just broke? Or do you go find your friends? You opt for hiding in the bathroom until first period starts.

8:15 am -

First period is Algebra, yet you’ve been asked about the Calculus homework countless times. It’s fine – right? It’s okay to “still” be in Algebra. The teacher starts lecturing, something about the quadratic formula. You zone out, casually wondering where you would hide if a school shooter came into your classroom – “Are you even paying attention?” the teacher asks you, “What could possibly be more important than mastering this unit?” You snap out of your trance, but before you can respond, the bell rings. You jump, thinking it’s an active shooter alarm. No, first period just ended.

8:16 am -

On your way to your next class, you wonder fleetingly if you’re using second person to disassociate yourself from your own narrative.

8:17 am -

It’s going to be a long day.


Editors: Zoe L., Rajeshwari T., Amshu V.

Photo Credits: Unsplash

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