Not How I’d Hoped This Would End

I am a part of the class of 2020, and instead of going to prom or walking across the stage at graduation, my class will be making memories in a different kind of way.

If I’m being honest, I’ve shed many tears over the loss of the most significant moments of high school graduations: I will not be able to walk across that stage with my head held high, I will not be able to shake hands and give hugs to those who helped me along the way, and I will not be able to grab my diploma or move my tassel.

It’s heartbreaking.

Typically, the last three months of high school include many important senior moments, but for the class of 2020, it’s all turned upside down.

I didn’t know that the last day of my high school career was just that…the last day.

After Fayette County Public Schools officially made the announcement that we would be canceling in-person classes for the remainder of the semester, my mind veered away from the loss of prom and graduation to the fact that I had already walked out of high school for the very last time without even realizing it.

I didn’t know that the last day of my high school career was just that…the last day.

For 13 years, it’s been ingrained into my brain that I would walk across the stage to get my diploma in front of all my friends and family at the end of my senior year. That’s how this chapter of my life is supposed to end. 

The reality is, the ending of my senior year is going to be very different than that, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful.

And if there is one thing these last few weeks has given me time to think about, it’s perspective. 

Yes, I am missing out on a traditional prom and graduation ceremony that has become a rite of passage. But we, as a class, are making history at the same time. 

In the years to come, I will be able to connect with other 2020 seniors in a way no other class before us ever has. I know that the pain and struggles I am enduring are a shared experience with thousands of seniors all across the country.

When I first started writing this open letter, it was more of a rant about why I’m upset I’m not getting the senior year I dreamed of, but the more I wrote, the more I realized that this is an experience in my life that I am learning from.

What started as a rant turned into a self-reflection. 

I have realized that I am allowed to grieve for the loss of those precious moments I will never have the opportunity to get, but I can not dwell on that sadness forever. As I began to see this as an opportunity for self-growth, I decided to find ways to make lemonade out of the lemons we’d all been handed.

Kristin Bruins and I have taken pictures together at every high school dance since freshman year, so we had to do something for our senior prom.

My friend and I decided that since we had both had already purchased prom dresses, and since we knew that we were not going to have an in-person prom, we’d improvise. We put on our dresses, did our hair and makeup, and took prom pictures together…from six feet apart.

We learned how to be light in even the darkest situations. 

It is never truly about what happens to us, it’s about how we react to it. 

So no, the class of 2020 is never going to get the traditional prom or the traditional graduation ceremony, and it is ok for us to be upset about it: the milestones we’ve reached are not going to be celebrated the way we thought they were.

But we still reached those milestones.

We made it through, and we will continue to make it through. When this is all over, we will be able to look back and proudly say that we were strong enough to end our senior year during a global pandemic. 

The coronavirus has already taken away the lives of thousands of people in our country, others have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet, and healthcare workers are risking their lives every day to help. Everyone is making significant sacrifices right now.

So even though it doesn’t always feel like it, there are so many things I have to be thankful for. This experience has taught me to be appreciative of even the smallest things in life, and never take anything for granted. I didn’t know the year was going to end this way, and there are so many more things I wish I could have done at Dunbar.

It’s important to remember that occasions in our life do not define us, but who we are and how we carry ourselves along the way does.