Illustration by Isaac McKenna
Growing up, I dreamt of my senior year of high school often—the process of applying to colleges and choosing next steps, the excitement of a new chapter, graduation, and prom. I looked forward to coming together one last time before parting ways. And after thirteen years of school, here we are, senior year, and things are looking more different than I could’ve ever imagined.
In the past week, COVID-19 has altered the course of my life in almost every way possible. Schools in Michigan have closed down for the time being—until April 6th—but as the days pass, our return is looking less and less likely.
I’m set to graduate in a few weeks, yet I brace for the news that the school year may not continue at all, taking with it the senior scavenger hunt, senior skip day, and maybe even graduation itself.
Of course, these worries are the least pressing concern for most of us. Across the country, families are trying to find sources of food to replace school-provided lunch, healthcare workers and grocery clerks are working overtime, people living paycheck-to-paycheck struggle to make ends meet, and people of all ages and backgrounds are falling ill, many losing their lives.
It’s difficult to put feelings about all of this into words, in part because of how many emotions there are to feel. The whole world feels as if it’s crumbling and yet we’re also experiencing extraordinary acts of kindness from our friends and neighbors.
There’s a lot of anxiety around whether our loved ones will get sick and overarching fears of the uncertainty of the situation.
It’s not often that the world experiences an event that’s truly akin to uncharted waters—there is no guidance we can seek from our elders on this, no manual to read. We all are forced to take it day by day. The news feels overwhelming and the quiet feels lonely, so it’s a strange place to be.
In some ways, it’s nice. Many of us have found ourselves given the gift of time with few commitments—time to explore new hobbies, read books we’ve been meaning to, spend time outside, and connect with old friends over FaceTime.
But in a lot of ways, the fear of the unknown seeps into everything we do. My family and I are following social distancing recommendations to the best of our ability—however, I know quite a few students and families who are either choosing not to or can’t due to work.
In the cases where there is a choice, it’s been interesting and disappointing to see whether people choose to put themselves or their community first. My friends and I are staying connected through FaceTime and social media; we’re sending each other TikToks and memes because it’s become our generation’s way to cope.
It’s a new normal, and one that will take a lot of getting used to. But there’s comfort in the fact that we’re all in it together. There are very few things that all human beings across the globe share as a lived experience. My hope is that it teaches us the importance of community care, of radical empathy, and love for humanity.
And to my fellow seniors who are worried about what the future may hold: know that you are strong. We’re the kids who came into the world during and shortly after 9/11, who have faced mass shootings in schools, gun violence and hunger in our communities, tumultuous leadership from our government, an intensifying climate crisis, and more.
There’s a lot to worry about, but there’s also a lot to be thankful for. If we focus on advocating for each other, protecting each other, and loving each other, we can and will get through this.
Do you want to share your experience during unexpected school closures, too? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.