Change of plans: missing out on the senior experience

Going to sleep at three in the morning and sleeping in until one in the afternoon. Sounds like every teenager’s dream, right? Months into Clarke County’s school cancellations, students would give anything to wake up at eight and return to school. 

Growing up, my mother constantly reminded me to “Slow down, enjoy school because once it’s gone it’s gone forever.” And as I’m sure many of us did, I ignored this warning. I thought, “How could I ever miss school? No way.” But now we all see what our parents were trying to tell us. And reality is hitting in for the class of 2020. 

We’ve been working toward senior year for 12 years: senior prom, senior breakfast, senior picnic, college tours. Spending as much time with our friends, going on fun senior field trips, and savoring the last few months we have together before we leave and spread across the country for college. Walking the stage in Stegeman Coliseum together, hearing our name called and getting recognized for all of our hard work. For some students, it’s possibly the greatest accomplishment in our life to date, and for the class of 2020 all of these incentives are being ripped away involuntarily. 

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, CCSD shut its doors originally for a week after spring break in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading throughout the schools. I remember being at work with two other seniors and rejoicing in the extended spring break we thought we were receiving. Then one week turned to two, then three, and then we finished the school year online. We’re even graduating online now. 

On top of not seeing each other at school, Athens-Clarke County issued a now expired mandatory shelter-in-place requiring people to stay in their homes except for work, emergencies, and essential needs. I haven’t seen my friends in weeks. We were trapped inside our houses unable to spend these last few precious months together, and it was devastating. I remember all of the things we had planned. Parties for our friends who had birthdays in March and April, a group camping trip on one of the long weekends coming up, renting a limo and enjoying our senior prom. We were planning on spending every second we could together, and now the only way to help battle this pandemic and save lives is to not leave our house and stay six feet away from everyone outside our family. 

I hate being at home doing nothing. I work all the time, am out with friends as much as possible, and I enjoy school. I need to be distracted as a person, and this idle time sitting at home doing nothing and only socializing with my family is driving me to the brink of insanity. In the span of two days as the lockdown began, I found out about the passing of two friends in a car accident, and my dog Buddy was almost killed by a rampant pitbull while my parents took him out on a walk. 

I miss my friends, my teachers and my freedom. To think that the last Friday before CCSD went on spring break was possibly the last day I would see my teachers and classmates is heartbreaking. In case that was the last time, here are some final words. 

To my fellow seniors, 

I don’t know all of you, but I feel your pain. For those who I’ve only exchanged a few words with in our years together, thank you for being a part of my Cedar family. To those who I don’t know, but have held the door open for me or smiled at me in the hallway, thank you for being a part of my Cedar family. I hope that in this time of tragedy, you and your families are all staying safe. I want to say that I am so proud of all of us for making it this far, because I may not know you or your personal struggles, but you made it and I’m proud. 

To the teachers of Cedar Shoals,

Thank you for your unconditional love and support. Thank you for all of your hard work. I know being a teacher can’t be easy, but I appreciate everything you’ve done for us. Thank you Mr. Lee for bonding with me over our shared love for Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe and hard rock. Thank you Ms. Moore for reading all of my poetry and leaving feedback, and for seeing me no matter how hard I tried not to be seen. Thank you Mrs. Zimpfer for the hardest class I’ve taken and helping me to push through and somehow miraculously get a B. Thank you Mr. Baker for making biology fun. Thank you Mrs. Martin for not only making world history something I actually wanted to learn about, but also for being a friend and support system for all of your students. Thank you Mrs. Haas for finding me that one morning an hour before school started and letting me unload to you in your classroom and helping me through it. All of you have impacted my life and helped me get to where I am today. I wouldn’t have rather had any other group of teachers. 

To the administration and staff of Cedar Shoals,

Thank you for always keeping our best interests in mind. Thank you for trying to protect us and help us grow. To our new principal Mr. Derricotte, thank you for your commitment to our school before you were given the title of principal. It saddens me that I don’t get to see all of the things you have planned, but I know that my freshman brother will be left in good hands with you and the rest of your team. Mr. Carter, thank you for the jokes and support you gave me freshman year. To all of Cedar’s amazing custodians and lunch ladies, thank you for all of your hard work and smiles in the hallways. Ms. Reese, thank you for being one of the most caring and supportive people I have ever met. Thank you for pushing me to do my SAT and ACT and being so proud of me when I got into KSU. Thank you for believing in me and having my back, your hugs always make my day. Thank all of you for your hard work and unconditional love for all of us. 

To Mr. Ginsberg, 

Thank you for taking a chance on me. When I joined your debate class I was a rebellious mess of a sophomore who didn’t care about school or her future. Thank you for getting me out of team sports and asking me to join the BluePrints Magazine class. Finding journalism was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I found something that I actually cared about, something that motivated me. I realized that journalism was something that I could actually see myself doing, and because of that I started to care about school altogether. Thank you for dealing with all of the crazy mood swings and situations I got myself into. Thank you for pushing me and seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself. We drive each other absolutely crazy, but I appreciate you and everything you’ve done for me, especially telling me the things I don’t want to hear but need to. Because of you I’ve found my passion and improved my writing as well as myself as a person. 

Dear friends,

I know that before senior year I didn’t want much to do with any of you. I know I pushed all of you away in middle school and avoided many of you for the first three years of our high school experience. But thank you for welcoming me back into your lives with open arms this year. The last few months that we’ve spent together have been some of the most amazing times of my life. Most of us have known each other since middle school, some of us since we were six. Some of us have only been together this year, but you all are my family. It makes me so incredibly upset that I’m not getting to spend as much time with you all as I want to this year, but just know that I thank all of you for being there for me when I needed and helping me grow into the person I am today. I know all of you will do amazing things with your lives, and I can’t wait to read about it on Facebook if we ever lose touch. I look forward to our class reunions and seeing how far you have all come and sharing our memories of each other together. I know I will never forget y’all.