Finding a Silver Lining in a Pandemic-Shortened Senior Year

Photo by Henry Ellenbogen

I eat dinner with my family on May 15. While my senior year is certainly not ending the way I had hoped it would, it is nice that I get to spend more time with my family throughout this lockdown.

This whole pandemic thing? I am not a fan of it.

Since my first viewing of High School Musical 3 back in 2008, I had been looking forward to my senior year of high school. The glitz, the glamour, and all the pizazz of this momentous milestone in my life pushed me to persevere through my awkward phase in middle school and the trials and tribulations of high school. I quickly realized, when I returned to class in September, that senior year was not the gentrified version portrayed by Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. Sure, Troy Bolton can hit a jump shot, but can he write an essay in 650 words or less that sums up all of his life experiences thus far while also making a compelling case as to why any given college should accept him into their next freshman class?

Nevertheless, I was still excited for many of the special senior activities that each grade does. I dreamed of spending spring break with my friends in some exotic, far away land. I trained every day for an intense water wars battle, waiting for my chance to shock the world with my super soaker. I scoured stores across the area, looking for the perfect tuxedo for my senior prom. I prepared to walk the halls of Groves one last time to the pace of the beat of the drum as my underclassmen friends wished me luck in my future. I counted down the days until I would walk across the stage, adorning my green cap and gown, when I would receive my diploma and officially become a Groves alumnus, to the applause of my friends and family.

Now, instead of sitting in class trying to find ways to not do my work, I sit at my desk at home doing the same thing. While the administration has done their best to supplement these experiences that COVID-19 has taken away from us, they understand that they cannot replicate the magic of senior year on Zoom. Time is our most precious asset, and the times we have lost cannot be reimbursed.

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to change our lives every day, and I see no reason to believe that will change any time in the foreseeable future. (Although considering how quickly the tides turn nowadays, that is not such a long future.)

This final trimester of my senior year is nothing like how I envisioned it would be. While we have made many sacrifices in our daily lives to maintain public health and safety, there are at least a couple positives that I believe we all should take away from these past months. With all the negativity in the world right now, it is more important than ever for us to keep our thoughts positive.

At this point, we have been social distancing for over two months. That means that for the past two months, the only people we have interacted with on a daily basis are the people within our homes. For high school seniors, that means spending a lot more time with our families. This change was a drastic one for me. Before the lockdown, I would say that a typical day for me would consist of no more than ninety minutes spent with at least one member of my family. Now, I spend at least four hours a day with the people in my home. We fight over who can use a room at any given time; we argue about whose turn it is to set the table; and we generally invade each other’s personal space at every waking moment.

That being said, even though I am often at my breaking point every time my brother and sister scream at each other, or my parents tell me to quiet down, I am thankful that we get to spend some quality time together. While right now the surplus of family time is a little overwhelming, five years from now, when I can look back at this time in terms of the big picture of life, I will be thankful that I got to spend all this time with the ones I love.

Next year, I am supposed to be taking a gap year in Israel. The four years after that, I will be living away from home as I further my education. During the summers, I still work at camp as a counselor, and I plan on returning for as many summers as possible. Without this lockdown, I am genuinely unsure when the next time I would have been home with my entire family for at least a month would have been. So even though I am already getting sick of family game night, and I wish at times that I could go anywhere else to clear my head, I am at least glad that I can enjoy living with my family one final time without outside distractions.

That being said, there are not that many distractions nowadays. In the time of social distancing, any activity that could be moved online has moved to the world wide web, and any activity that is not internet compatible has been indefinitely postponed. As such, my senior year schedule has almost completely cleared up in the past two months. While I am disheartened that I do not get to partake in many of my senior rites of passage, there is at least a slight silver lining to the sight of my now empty calendar.

I had a packed spring scheduled for my senior year. I was supposed to visit Boston, New Jersey, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Los Angeles, and Portland between the beginning and end of this trimester. In addition, I was going to attend classes, partake in water wars, plan events for my Jewish youth group, go to at least one prom, get a job, and participate in tons of other activities. Once spring was over, I was going to go to camp for two months, and soon after coming home I was going to leave for my gap year. My life was moving at a million miles an hour. Then all of a sudden, the coronavirus decided to slam the brakes on all my plans.

Of course I am disappointed that my spring and summer plans are pretty much out the window. But instead of seeing my empty calendar as drag, I am going to use it as an opportunity. I now have a copious amount of time, and I can use it in ways I never thought I would have been able to before. I can learn new skills; I have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. I can clean my room for the first time in five years. My friends and I can create dumb new games over FaceTime and Zoom. Maybe I can even find out what is going on in Area 51. (My theory is that the government is recharging the bird drones there.)

I think my old friend Ferris Bueller summarized my point best when he said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Even though life typically moves insanely fast, right now it is moving at turtle speed. Once this whole pandemic passes, life will accelerate its pace once again. The world has presented us with this time out, this break from the stresses of the world, this recess from the expectations of those around us. It is up to us to take advantage of this deceleration before we run out of time.

We are living through a historic time. Clearly, this is not the senior year I envisioned, but it is the senior year I received. The best thing that I can do, that we, the class of 2020, can do, is to make the most of the hand the world dealt us. With a positive attitude and an open mind, we will get through this, and our senior year can still be one that we will never forget.

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