Senior Students Share Their Loss
Reflections from the Class of 2020
Senior students across the country are experiencing the loss of many rights of passage of their senior year. Not only that, like the rest of us, they are looking toward an uncertain future. While seniors can usually look forward to transitioning into adulthood through work or college or both, the senior class of 2020 may be facing a virtual world from their childhood bedrooms. We asked a few members of the class of 2020 from the Tulsa area to share their thoughts and feelings with us this month.
The sheer number of questions the coronavirus outbreak has opened is overwhelming. The process of graduating and heading to college demands a plan, yet it seems as though every time we glimpse what comes next, the pandemic grows worse and we are thrust back into the dark. There’s a lot of uncertainty, more than I think I’ve felt before. I wouldn’t categorize myself as hopeful or hopeless. Mainly, I just feel disoriented. I think that’s a shared experience.
As I begin to discover what the rest of my semester will look like, I can’t help but feel worried. I’ve never had to manage the stress and frustration of high school without my peers acting as a support system. Sometimes I feel like I’m just one Zoom call away from losing it. I’m just trying to live in the moment without forgetting about the future. I’m slowly learning to adapt to our new and temporary reality and I’m craving the prevalence of routine in my life that I luxuriously enjoyed each day before.
My one big hope is that this pandemic will be in the past by August. I can’t even see the friends I’ve already made; don’t make me try and build a friend group in Alabama with the threat of COVID-19 constantly looming. I miss my friends and I miss knowing what comes next for me, but I know both will return, even if I have to wait longer than is desirable. I don’t want to spin a pandemic as a positive (people die), but this one has certainly taught me not to take anyone for granted.
Living in the Moment
Going to school on March 13, I was looking forward to having the next week off to relax and recoup so that I could come back on March 23 and finish the semester strong. I was aware COVID-19 was becoming more serious, but I didn’t believe it would prevent us from returning to school for the rest of the year. So, March 13 was just a regular Friday, and I went through the motions of the school day the same way I always did. Little did I know, I would never go through those motions again.
When it was first announced that we would be out for the two weeks following spring break, I didn’t really think much of it, but over the course of my supposed-to-be relaxing spring break, I became nervous. As the seemingly never-ending flow of press conferences and news reports covering COVID-19 consumed my attention, my hope in returning to school began to dwindle. Hearing about the proposal to cancel school for the rest of the year didn’t come as a shock, but when the proposal was approved, I was overwhelmed with emotions. Although I expected it, I didn’t want to believe it. I was filled with sadness as I began to realize all of the experiences I would now be missing. My mind first went to the monumental events many of us look forward to from a young age, like graduation and senior prom, but as I thought about it more, the loss of everyday experiences made me most sad. Walking in the school hallways, something I would never deem important, suddenly felt significant. Simple conversations with my classmates and teachers are things I will miss tremendously. Not knowing that my last day of high school was my last day is heartbreaking, and knowing that there are so many seniors going through the exact same experience saddens me even more.
However, as I have tried to think positive, I’ve discovered a few bright sides. Since everyone is experiencing this pandemic, everyone now has something in common. I find a bit of peace knowing that as I (hopefully) begin college in the fall, all of my classmates will have had a similar experience. This pandemic has also forced me to learn the life lesson that all of a sudden, everything can stop, so I should be very intentional with how I live my life. I’ve told myself countless times that I should live in the moment, but I’ve struggled to actually take this advice. Coming out of this experience though, I believe that I will be more present because I now understand the importance of enjoying where I’m at.
Missing In-person Connections
I am a senior at Booker T. Washington High School doing the Tulsa Term semester program. My thoughts on the abrupt ending of this year are slightly unique, because I had already said my goodbyes, as I knew I would be ending my senior year with Tulsa Term. I am, of course, very upset about the cancellation of events such as prom and graduation, but beyond thankful to be in Tulsa Term, as my amazing teachers (Jane Beckwith and Eder Williams-McKnight) have worked so hard to make the online experience of our program just as unique and engaging as the in-person experience.
Normally, Tulsa Term is taught out of City Hall downtown and incorporates “field work.” Our field work is done at a multitude of sights and involves very hands-on learning. Now that we are online, Jane and Eder have worked very hard to convey the same experience into online video chats and research assignments, both of which have made me think on a much deeper level than my prior years of schooling have ever done for me. Because this semester has been so different than my previous high school experience, perhaps my transition isn’t as dramatic as others.
With that said, I have made so many new friendships through this program and it has been difficult to no longer get those in-person connections.
Missing Closure on a Chapter in Life
To say that the current circumstances of the world are unexpected would be an understatement. The last thing I expected to happen this semester was to have my senior year completely cancelled by a global pandemic. Truth be told, I still can’t decide whether I’m upset about all of my final high school moments being cancelled or if I’m okay with the fact that I’m almost free. The four years of high school have not been my favorite, and my particular case of senior-itis has been suffocating. However, I was looking forward to my senior events and when I got the message that I would not be going back, I was shocked.
Throughout my entire career as a student, I have been working toward my graduation where I get to be recognized for all that I have accomplished, but the chance of it not happening is extremely disappointing. Graduation is the moment every student looks forward to in order to get through their years, but mine might just be taken away. I am more nostalgic than I have ever been because I haven’t been allowed a proper goodbye to my high school career, and sometimes it doesn’t feel real. My senior soccer season was canceled, and I’m not going to play in college, so the last time I stepped on the field was the last time I would ever lace up my cleats, and I didn’t even know. I didn’t know the last time I walked through the hall would be my last time as a student. I didn’t know that the last time I saw my amazing teachers, peers, teammates, and coaches would be goodbye. Ultimately, I didn’t get closure from my life as it has always been before moving on to a new life at college.
Despite everything, I am ready to move on to the next stage of my life in a new place with new people. The excitement I have for my new chapter might just overpower my disappointment of missing out on the most important high school moments.