As a member of the Class of 2020, I’ve experienced this virus as a rude introduction into adulthood and a crash course in what it means to survive in the real world. With school closed, prom canceled, and graduation on hold, my new senior-year routine entails face-mask sewing, leisurely walks in the park, and hours upon hours of bad daytime television.
I’m not kidding when I say I’ve aged decades in the last few weeks.
I may hardly qualify as an adult, but the coronavirus outbreak has forced me and my peers to grow up much faster than expected. Whether practicing self-isolation, traversing difficult family dynamics, or navigating distant modes of education, seniors such as myself are fulfilling our new obligations to public health while mourning the promise of a spring semester that never came.
In a COVID-19 trial by fire, my peers and I have been schooled on the deadly consequences of childish behavior in the real world. Although teenagers are less likely to suffer serious consequences from the coronavirus, our role as carriers for the virus means we’re all personally responsible for stopping the spread of COVID-19.
(I’m looking at you, spring breakers.)
Before we’re even old enough to vote, this crisis is testing our class’ principles of good citizenship every day. While our brain chemistry might be questionable at best, we’re making some of the life-changing decisions necessary to keep our communities safe. With schools shut down, an entire generation of students has gone from having to ask for permission to use the bathroom to knowing any irresponsible actions from us could lead to someone else’s death. With no teachers around to pick us up when we fall — or, at least not without putting gloves on first — this slap-in-the-face reality check is on us.
Needless to say, at a time when disinfecting our gym socks is literally do-or-die, the coronavirus crisis has brought new meaning to the verb adulting for the Class of 2020.
When we’re not pushing through these growing pains, the senior class has plenty of free time to daydream about what could’ve been and what now may never be due to COVID-19. Personally, I’ve found it hard to see our graduation as a fresh start when the whole world is drowning in losses. I’ve lost my last year of childhood, my last school trips, my last chance to make memories with friends, and my last months of innocence and ignorance as a coddled high school kid. I’ve taken for granted feigned sick days over “senioritis” and my impressive ability to sleep through my 6 a.m. alarm.
Perhaps most unfortunately, with thousands of people dead and more dying each day, my classmates and I have even lost the privilege to grieve over our forgone senior year.
While the future may be unknown to all of us, this is especially true for the Class of 2020.
Staring out my window on the horizon of my hometown, I can’t help but think some us will never escape the confines of this lockdown. With the future more uncertain than ever, many of us have lost access to the very opportunities we’ve strived our whole lives to unlock. We’re taking on student loans for colleges we’ve never even visited. We’re job hunting for full-time work amid an economic collapse. We’re enlisting in the military while a war continues to rage on the home front. We’re being confronted with our own mortality before we’ve even had a chance to live.
As we look toward the future, I fear for the Class of 2020 and what this quarantine will mean for us, our families, our careers, and our education. Still, if our perseverance through COVID-19 has proven anything, it’s that we can endure the death of everything we’ve ever known and live to tell the tale.