Lunch at Berkeley High School is a sacred time, being only 40 minutes long. Students often go off campus to enjoy a plethora of food options with friends while others choose to eat alone. A whole school day can be exhausting and having lunch alone can be a time for students to find a moment of solitude.
Margot Johnson, a sophomore, said, “I like having that chill time by myself.” For her, lunch is a time to relax and reset for the next three periods. Eating with friends usually requires making a plan which can be draining, so for some, it’s easier to eat alone. Instead, lunch can be a time to finish up homework, taking advantage of the productive aspect of lunch over the social time. The purpose of lunchtime changes per individual. For extroverts it can serve as a recharge; having a tasty bagel or slice of pizza with a few chums can be the highlight of a boring day.
Typically, high schoolers don’t want to be seen as lonely, however that sentiment varies widely between students. Julie Panebianco, a U9 teacher, explained her experience with eating alone. “When I was in
high school, it would have felt like a big deal to me,” Panebianco said. “But I don’t want to say everyone feels that way.” In a large student body, there are bound to be people that judge themselves for eating alone. High schoolers that strive for social validation can find it hard to choose to eat alone while for other students it comes naturally.
“The people that do eat alone have options, they do it because they prefer it,” Johnson said. She said teenagers who eat alone might not care what others think and instead prioritize themselves and what they find enjoyable. Especially as high schoolers approach graduation, and will soon shift away from BHS, concerns about social validation can take a backseat. Calder Fritz, a senior in Independent Study,
sometimes eats with friends on campus or alone depending on his schedule. “I don’t think people will judge you for that now,” Fritz said. He believes people should respect what others do with their time, whether that is alone or with friends, and spending time alone doesn’t have to indicate a specific trait.
Many students who do eat alone stay on campus to soak in the peace and quiet that is sparse during lunch. The G and H building halls, library, and the CCC are comfortable and warm when it’s cold out.
Panebianco opens her classroom every day to students and notices people come in alone as well as with friends. In her classroom, there lacks a social stigma surrounding eating alone. Describing the vibe, she said, “We (end up)
hanging out, talking and joining conversations.” For some, teacher’s classrooms can be a good middle ground between spending time alone and being surrounded by a welcoming environment.
For some, eating alone is a daily routine while others do it once a month before a test. Gabby Almeida-Gere, a junior in Berkeley International High School said, “I don’t think it is common, but there are a lot of people who do it. You can walk through the halls and see it.”
Avi Dutton, a freshman in hive seven, when prompted on the topic of eating alone said, “People think you don’t have friends, but I don’t agree with that.” Other students notice the contradictory set of beliefs where eating alone is considered sad and a taboo, but also a positive experience.