The Class of 2020: Our Abrupt Ending


Photo courtesy of Charlotte Pulte

Here’s me (second to the right!) with some friends at the senior Powder Puff game, an annual tradition in the early fall.

Senior year of high school: a short period of time in one’s teenage life that seems to always be revered and praised. You’ve made it. You survived junior year and are pushing through the exciting and stressful college application process. It’s the home stretch. A new chapter is right around the corner.

In the meantime, however, you have so much to enjoy, most of which has to do with seniority. After all, it’s what the whole thing is named after. Things like being closest to the action at sporting events, walking the halls like you own the place, and the beloved, sought-after parking spot.

On Thursday, March 12, I went to school like it was any other day. It wasn’t until I was sitting in third period that I realized how serious this all was. The girl who sat next to me was talking about the growing number of cases near us, and the growing number of schools who were closing for weeks or even months. From that point on, it felt like there was some sort of shift in the air, and I felt it follow me for the rest of the day. Like somehow, everyone else in the building had heard her reading off those statistics as well. There was a solemn yet uncertain cloud over Libertyville High School.

Friday, March 13. This did not feel like a Friday at all. Even before the first bell rang, it felt like the year was already over. Like we shouldn’t be there anymore. My whole day was consumed with conversations about the growing pandemic and not a single class that I was in was academically motivated that day. The chatter filled every corner of the building. If I wasn’t saying silent goodbyes in my head, I was listening to nervous classmates ask about what would happen to the rest of our school year. Looking back, I should have said those goodbyes out loud.

As a student with early release, I walked out of the school doors at 2:35 not knowing the future of my senior year. I didn’t get to hear Dr. K’s last words, and I can only imagine what his voice over the loudspeaker would sound like in that moment. Instead, I received an email as I pulled into my driveway that delivered the news. 

Honestly, I’m still struggling to come to terms with all of this, and most of my friends are too. When you think of finishing high school, the first things that come to mind are usually prom graduation and all of the other celebratory things that come along with it. Instead, we’re staying home all day, cooped up and craving social interaction. 

When you’re a kid, it feels like your whole life is school, and senior year symbolizes the cherry on top. The easy part. The fun part. Not having that classic ending seems like a robbery, and especially as a teenager, I’m finding it hard to keep things in perspective. 

In the grand scheme of things, yes, our senior year being cut short is trivial compared to the number of people across the globe who are ill or have died. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being insensitive in some way for grieving over my high school career in a time like this, and so a wave of guilt usually follows my nostalgia and sadness.

Still, when you’re in high school, your whole world is high school, whether it’s academically or socially. So in this way, our whole world has ended abruptly, taken away without warning. And when everything is changing so fast, there’s that desperate feeling to cling to some normalcy. This time, there is no normal. 

The only thing that’s given me some peace is knowing that I’m not alone. Seniors all over the country, and even the world, are going through the exact same thing. It’s even bigger than that. Nearly everyone has had something taken away from them during the past few months because of this pandemic. It’s pretty sappy, but I’ve learned more about being appreciative and not taking anything for granted during the past few weeks than I have my whole life. 

The main thing I’m trying to remember, amongst all of the positivity mantras that are circulating social media, is that my feelings are valid. It’s okay that this incomplete resolution to high school that we received doesn’t seem fair. It’s okay that I tear up just from looking at pictures of me and my friends. It’s okay to not be okay. 

This sucks, and there’s no other way to put it. It sounds silly, but I feel like I’ll never be able to fully make peace with this until I get some kind of closure, some kind of reunion. The thought of never going through that schedule again, never sitting in that desk again or never seeing that teacher again is too much. Instead, I look forward to all of the hugs I’m going to give out one day, all of the happy tears I’ll shed for a change and seeing my classmates’ smiling faces again. I don’t know how or when, but I know that I will see you all again.