My Experience with Homecoming — Why I’m Glad I Attended


Jonathan Cheng

Homecoming Dance, Chaotic but Fun

I love watching movies or shows set in high school. Mean Girls. Never Have I Ever. Spiderman Homecoming. They’re like guilty pleasures that remind me how the traditional high school experience was so unrealistic. Toxic drama. Reckless partying. Sex and drugs. These were the things typically featured in movies and shows. While I’m sure these things occur in Irvington and I just don’t hear about it, I always found it interesting how different my Irvington experience was.

For me, the reality of being an Irvington student meant grinding AP classes, competing in math competitions, and joining STEM clubs. It meant the looming stress of grades and college always in the back of my head, clinging parasitically.

I’ve realized now, as a senior, that there was something fundamentally missing from my high school experience that I craved. No, I don’t mean the things I listed above. I’m glad to be far from those. But something deeper. Something both simple and complex at the same time. Something invisible, but powerful. Attending the Homecoming Dance for the first (and last) time, I discovered what “it” was.

Entering the courtyard at first, I felt extremely uncomfortable. It was a combination of peer pressure, fear of regret, and innate curiosity that led me here. Yes, I had my friends nearby, but it was so weird to see so many people, most of whom I’ve never met before. Everybody was all dressed up. Music was blasting on the speakers. Lights were flashing. I had no idea how I’d spend 3 hours here.

Walking around, awkwardly waving hi to people with whom I was vaguely acquainted, I found out to my surprise, Mr. Ip and Ms. Koehler were there as chaperones. They were probably just there to satisfy some staff hours requirement, but I also had a vague feeling that perhaps even something as mundane as a Homecoming Dance carried some level of significance to them. I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps they, as Irvington alumni, felt nostalgic about their own high school experiences,  and that by chaperoning the HOCO Dance, even if it meant just standing there like a stick, they would be reminded of those simpler times. 

And with that train of thought, the DJ began to play nostalgic songs like Party in the USA or Super Bass. The songs from the early 2010’s that I’d listen to on the way back home from school on the radio. Or the songs I’d dance to when playing Just Dance with my family. Hearing these songs, I couldn’t help but smile and want to sing along.

My friends invited me to step towards the front of the stage and form this loose circle. My initial reaction was to linger on the outskirts, but my friend Ryan kept encouraging me to come in closer. Seeing my other friends, whom I would normally consider just as reserved as I was, jumping up and down, full of energy, with the songs, I began to just accept the discomfort. Nodding my head up and down, raising my hands up into the air, or just awkwardly shuffling my feet to the rhythm, I began to embrace the moment. 

Singing, dancing, and just vibing alongside these songs, I could forget about coursework and college applications. I could let go of my responsibilities and just be a normal high schooler. I felt full of energy and oh-so-human. And that’s what “it” is, something that can’t possibly be expressed through words, only experienced. The human connection. The sense of community and feeling of belonging. 

The songs came and went and in a blink of an eye, the homecoming dance was over. Leaving the school that night, I felt so glad that I had attended.

Now, I’m not saying you must attend social events to have a fulfilling high school experience. Personally, I’m exhausted and my social battery is drained. But I’m just encouraging you all, no matter how cliché it is, to step out of your comfort zone and search for the things that bring out your spirit and allow you to feel connected. Sometimes, the things you would normally consider lame are actually more fun than you could have ever imagined. Sometimes, the things you overlook are the things that are most incredible.