When I think of my last day of my senior year, I think of the excitement and nerves that every other senior before me experienced. Turning in books, preparing to take any finals, cleaning out that locker one last time. The last time you see your classmates and teachers before graduation. I was really looking forward to that day, but that day will never come.
On April 15, 2020, Governor J. B. Pritzker announced that schools would be closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year. I remember waking up from a nap and opening up Facebook to hear the news that I had been dreading to hear all quarantine. It’s a smart decision, but it doesn’t mean that it also isn’t heartbreaking. I just remember laying in bed while I quietly whispered “no” while the inevitable tears streamed down my face.
You can’t ever make up for the lost experiences during quarantine. This is the time that was supposed to be spent making some of the best memories of our lives. Instead we are stuck in our houses - doing our homework online, watching Netflix, really anything we can do to create some form of distraction. It sucks that this is how it all ends. 12 years of hard work just ripped away, just like that. With all this extra time on my hands, I am reminded of how much I really loved school. I loved having that routine and I was hoping that I too could walk across the stage and get my diploma like so many others have before me. I wanted to close this chapter peacefully and move on with grace, but what’s stopping me?
Is it the fact that I’m not allowed to see anyone in person? Or the fact that life has gotten somewhat meaningless? I am trying to stay motivated. I had such a good work ethic in school, but now I can barely keep my head above water. I didn’t realize with all of this quarantine that the class of 2020 would get so much pity. Pity because we will really truly never be celebrated like the other graduating classes. Pity because we never got that closure that we deserved.
I was looking forward to the last few days of high school. I was looking forward to saying thank you to every teacher that believed in me and helped me during my high school career. I was looking forward to being able to settle some bones with people who I didn’t always get along with. What do you look forward to when everything that you have been looking forward to has been canceled?
Well the answer to that is you just have to keep looking. Like high school seniors all over the United States we are stepping into a world that none of us have ever experienced before. So, I am concentrating on what I can control. I’m looking forward to the days of the week when I volunteer delivering food for Genesis Garden. I’m looking forward to going to college in the fall. I’m looking forward to the day when we are able to hug and see each other again. I’m looking forward because I’m doing the only thing that I know that has gotten me through some of the worst things in life, because if you don’t look forward you won’t go anywhere.
So, maybe we didn’t get that picture-perfect happy ending that has marked high school graduations for decades, but in some ways, I think we have been given a really valuable gift instead. We will have stories to tell our children and grandchildren that will be like no others and might have never been properly celebrated, but we are brave and we will keep moving forward.
Maren McIlvaine-Newsad is a senior at Macomb High School.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.
Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.