Straight from the Source: When a global pandemic interrupts senior year
Like others in the Class of 2020, I swept the halls with a confidence only seniors could muster. Having risen to the top of the high school food chain, the phrase "second semester senior year" was one that I dreamed of experiencing all throughout my time at Stevenson. One where I could sleep through my 6 a.m. alarm, plead with my mother to excuse me from missed classes and blame it on senioritis.
Senior spring was supposed to be full of graduation parties, road trips and a last dance -- when I'd look to the stretch of bobbing heads and beautiful dresses with a sigh of relief and say, "I did it."
Even the tedious graduation ceremony where I'd sit on a plastic chair for hours and count the number of names I didn't recognize from my graduating class had some excitement. At least I would endure it with my friends.
Now, my graduation consists of sitting on my living room couch and sporting pajamas under my revered cap and gown that are now just two pieces of green fabric. If you had told me this is what the end of senior year would look like a year ago, heck even a month ago, I would have laughed in your face. Nothing was taking away my glorified spring semester.
The pandemic served as a rude awakening to my responsibilities as an adult, ones that I, still 17, was not prepared to face. Suddenly, practicing social distancing, adapting to a virtual education system and resolving tiring family struggles were pushed to the forefront of my priority list. As teenagers, we are less susceptible to the virus but are held to the same expectations to prevent it from spreading further. Now, our immature actions have real-life consequences: the death and sickness of those we love.
Unfortunately, sweeping away the rug of freedom beneath our firmly planted dreams had harsh effects on my friends and me. I have friends who completely shut down. Converting to classes online meant that missing school had next to no consequences; they didn't show up to classes and their life became dedicated to a series of Netflix episodes. For them, this semester was supposed to be where their loose ends could be threaded together and folded into the page of "High School" -- to be revisited with love in the future.
For others, the toxic "hustle culture" that encourages constant working and promises of success caught up to them. Here was a time where they could be doing so much: writing, reading, creating, studying. And yet, the unmotivating change of scenery only exacerbated their senioritis. Guilt was their primary emotion.
My heart goes out to every single senior struggling to maintain their identity and motivation amidst this chaos. I want to be next to you, celebrating you. I want to walk up to the graduation stage and show my mentors that I am proud of the person they have built me to be. I want to cry ugly tears with the underclassmen I am leaving behind. I want to do so much, and I want it to be in person. Perhaps the most difficult part of this all is that I am trying to find closure amongst dreams that will never occur.
While it is hard to find any hope amidst the pandemic, it is there if I look hard enough. My senior year has taken the most "unprecedented" route possible. If I get to see my classmates again before I (hopefully) go to college next fall, I will make sure to squeeze them a little tighter and praise them a little louder. As I've learned, I can't afford to pass up the opportunity for a "next time" that may never occur.
Quarantine has given me time to reflect on my last four years and dive deeper into the morals I want to preserve for college next year. I want to look back to my second-semester self and be proud of my flexibility to adapt, but still have empathy for my stumped senior self that had absolutely no clue what her future held.
• Vrushali Thakkar is a senior from Lincolnshire and will study at Emory University in Atlanta next fall. She serves as president of Catalyst Club and Economics Club at Stevenson High School and led a team to plan Stevenson's first mental health/suicide awareness forum this year. Additionally, Vrushali is a consultant for CADCA, or Community Anti-Drug Coalitions for America, where she collaborates with youths in various communities across the nation in coalition development and public health strategies.