Updated: May 6, 2020
As the spread of the corona virus has impacted virtually everyone across the globe, I’m sure varying opinions, posts, and takes on this pandemic have also affected each person with access to social media. Some of the most relevant to me, among others, are the posts that talk about saying goodbye to senior year. As a member of the class of 2020, I've had memes and videos sent to me by classmates in large numbers as, in my view, a coping mechanism. Along with the funny and semi-sad material, I've also seen people scolding and laughing at seniors for “peaking in high school,” informing viewers that there are much bigger issues.
More than anything else, this period of time has affected me because of bigger issues. The deaths of thousands which increase daily, the fact that my 75 year-old grandmother lives with me, the precautions I’ve taken like staying inside for almost a week and counting, washing my hands to the point of actually developing a rash (way to go, Wren) are all because of a very real sense of how serious this all is.
Although I know so many others have been and will be affected by COVID-19 on a much more intense scale than I can even imagine, this isn’t to say it hasn’t already affected me in a big way. To give a glimpse of this, I sat alongside my sister who cried upon learning her sophomore year of college had come to an early end. I felt her pain as she faced the fact that she did not get to say goodbye to her roommate who is a senior, her realization that many of her belongings will remain 1,000 miles away until it is safe for her to get back to her dorm. Her many questions about what is next as a musical theatre major who will inevitably not be able to study her craft in the ideal way for who knows how long. This all happened just days after saying what she didn’t know would be a long-term goodbye to friends, some of whom stayed and will possibly be forced to stay in the city.
I watched my mom breathe in the reality that the organization where she is a Vice President will take a severe hit in more ways than one. As a performing arts center, the lack of any performances and audiences creates a lack of so many other things the organization cannot do without. No students to take educational classes and no reasonable way to teach improv, choir or dance via “Zoom.” She was heartbroken.
And I was in my own way, too. For my whole family, for the world, and for myself because when I really get down to it, I’ve worked harder in school than in any aspect of my life. Not only is it the requirement for each of us to get an education, which I am extremely grateful I have access to, but it is also what we begin to strive for. Particularly in high school it becomes much more than just learning facts or numbers. I’m not going to pretend that I've gotten through the last four years unscathed, because nobody does. But whether you hated high school or loved it, in the end, at least for me, it isn’t about if you came out on top, or made the best grades (because I didn’t.) It isn’t about if you had the best time and made the most incredible memories either; it’s about the fact that you got through it. Each person’s journey is completely different but each one of us have had so many other things going on in our lives besides just schoolwork. No matter how busy you got, how rough things got at home, how alone you felt, how many extra-curriculars you accidentally committed to because you can’t say no, you made it through. Whether it’s about looking in a mirror and giving yourself a pat on the back or rejoicing with friends, the end of senior year is a time to celebrate.
Currently, I am reading friend’s posts about everything they won’t experience in the coming months: trips, prom, performances, games, clubs, college tours and more than likely, graduation. To act like it isn’t a great loss would be a lie. Each person experiencing the byproduct of this is affected in a different way; much like anything in life, and to discredit someone’s genuine disappointment in losing one of the most paramount times of their life is, just, wrong.
Personally, when I try to imagine not getting to walk across a stage in a tacky red gown and matching cap this May, I can’t help but dismiss the thought. Graduation seems untouchable, inevitable. Not having it or even having it late seems surreal and utterly disappointing. Is it the worst thing in the world? No. Are there much worse things happening to people everyday? Yes. Does it still really, really suck? YES.
I can’t speak for every member of the class of 2020, but the majority of them seem to want the exact same thing everyone else does right now. For this all to be over. To get back everything that is being taken away from them. I am not saying the effects of losing the end of senior year are equivalent to some of the horrible situations many people are finding themselves in, hopefully anyone with common sense knows that isn’t the case. But just as many bad things are resulting from a large portion of the world’s lives being flipped upside down. That is a bad thing.
All this is to say that during this time many situations get categorized into being big or small. Really mattering or not. When someone is grieving over losing something, let us collectively recognize the grief as it comes from the same place. It is okay to be upset when something is stolen from you. There was no way to predict the events that are unfolding and we are each reacting in our own way.
This time, however long it may last, is one giant unknown. One thing we do know is that we can be here for each other. Whether or not you can relate to someone’s situation, I hope we can all at least recognize that just because something "isn’t the worst”, that doesn’t make it good. Let’s not make anything into something it's not but try to understand that disappointment comes in so many forms right now.
To the class of 2020, I feel your pain and I know it seems like absolutely nothing is sure right now because, well, it isn’t. Confide in friends who are experiencing the same things. Take a deep breath in, take one day at a time and know that no matter how it gets recognized we will actually be done in a few short months. Congrats to each of you when that time comes, and let's hope we get to celebrate together sooner rather than later.