by Annabelle McGloin
Graduating during a pandemic is not how I envisioned the last few months of my senior year in high school playing out. I had no idea that once my school district closed, I would never return—at least not in the same way. My senior year was hijacked by this virus. All the events I had been looking forward to for the past four years, and all the traditions that made working so hard feel worth it, slowly passed by while I was stuck inside my house. I was even looking forward to taking my last round of final exams, because by that point in the school year I would’ve known where I was attending college, and it would’ve been more bittersweet than stressful, as they were all those times in the past. In the early days of quarantine, it became clear that I had attended my last day of high school without even realizing it. It was raining pretty hard that last day of school. I never liked going to school in the rain.
I had been holding onto expectations about my senior year with the unwavering certainty that they would come true. They were the light at the end of the tunnel that was high school. All those years, I sacrificed my time, effort, and energy into my academic pursuits, and I watched as the seniors ahead of me were celebrated for their hard work, thinking all along that I would one day enjoy those same celebrations. Being a high school student is not easy. It is academically challenging, as well as emotionally tumultuous, but knowing there is something sweet waiting for you at the end makes it worth the struggle. When my expectations weren’t met, I was heartbroken. I learned an important lesson: nothing in life is ever a guarantee.
My life, as well as everyone else’s lives, have been flipped around. Everything that used to be certain in my mind is now one big question mark. I no longer know whether I will physically be attending college in the Fall. I also have to worry about the health of myself and my loved ones. Every time I take a walk, go grocery-shopping with my mom, or pick up a to-go latté at my local café, I have to wonder if I’ll be infecting everyone I love and care about with a virus that could potentially kill them. That fear is a lot to carry around, especially when you’re young and still navigating the waters of your own life. There are so many thoughts swimming around in my head, and they feel overwhelming. Every time I even go in public to try and clear my mind, I feel a tinge of guilt that maybe I’ll be the one to bring home a deadly disease to my friends and family.
This crisis has forced me to grow up. Up until this point, my life has been fairly simple. I went to school every day and stressed over upcoming tests. I hung out with my friends on Friday nights and we watched movies together, and on the weekends I spent time with my family. My life was still complicated and complex—as everyone’s lives are—but I was allowed to be a normal teenager. I didn’t have to feel guilty about seeing my friends; I didn’t have to worry about the health of my loved ones (at least to the extent which we all do now). I could go to school and halfheartedly complain about having too much homework; I could see my teachers and chat with them casually, not about grades or assignments, but just for fun; I could graduate, throw my cap in the air, and hug all my friends and teachers.
Now all of that has changed. With the birth of the coronavirus comes a weighty responsibility to think about others in a purely selfless way. We have to take measures to ensure that everyone around us is not compromised in a way that could harm them or their loved ones, even if they are complete strangers. We must wear masks in public and stand six feet apart from each other, even if these things are irritating or inconvenient. This responsibility adds a lot of complications to our already complicated lives. These are extremely difficult times. I feel like I’ve grown up quite a bit in these last few months—more than I had planned to during the last moments of my high school career.
While these past few months have been somewhat hopeless, I do hope that we can learn from this experience. I hope that we can learn to work together, to listen to one another, and to respect one another’s thoughts, opinions, and ideas. I hope we will remember those who risked their lives every day for strangers who needed help. These are terrible times, but they are also wonderful times. I hope we will never forget them.