By: Julia Lees
In late February, I sat in my math class daydreaming about life after high school while creating a countdown in our school-issued planners with black ink. I was ready to leave Caldwell and JCHS behind. Now I look at it, and I know that it’s a countdown to the last day of school that will never really come. We all knew that schools would be closed for the rest of the year, but like everyone else in the class of 2020, it still hit me hard. I know I am selfish, but I wish I could go to prom, graduate, and have a last day of school.
The last few days of online high school made me think about what my last day of physical school was like. As many remember, it was a half-day due to COVID. I truly felt like I was in a zombie movie. The students walked from class to class in a sort of panicked daze. People were accusing each other of being sick and leaving early. I washed my hands between every single class. Every class was like a strange farewell. Nobody really knew at the time how long it would be, but I think in the back of everyone’s minds we knew it was goodbye for a while. I said to myself, “maybe we’ll come back after spring break; I mean we can’t possibly be gone forever.” I chose not to get my gym clothes from my locker, because I truly believed we would be back in just two weeks (RIP UConn sweatshirt; I hope you see the light of day again). The day went by so fast. Throughout the year, I had mastered the art of being the first car out of the parking lot. I packed my backpack before the end of school. After my last class, I went to my locker, grabbed my backpack, and ran. I would literally run. The particular motivation for getting out first today was my online Chipotle order I placed before the end of my last class. I didn’t even look back. I pulled out of the parking lot and almost got in an accident. I sped to Chipotle in a huff. I got home and ate my food alone at my kitchen table in silence. It was cold.
That was March 13th. It’s been about three months since then. At first, I thought it perfectly describes my senior year: unceremonious. I think a lot of people feel this way. I did at first. I felt sorry for myself. Then I thought of that story again. I still think it describes my senior year, but not for the same reason. High school is awkward and hilarious and mistimed and often disastrous. That is what is wonderful about it. My high school experience was not perfect. I don’t really believe anyone’s is. I have done it all in that building. I have cried in the bathroom and not cared who saw, laughed so hard in the library that I turned heads, passed and failed tests, broken the dress code, went to football games, made friends, and had fights. I’ve snuck food into the library and skipped school to go to brunch or the beach with my friends. I got to be editor in chief of the school paper after working on it since the beginning of high school. These moments are what living really is.
There are many things that the class of 2020 will not have. Going to prom, graduation, the last day of school, and signing yearbooks are gratifying and offer great closure to an entire chapter of life, but that’s just it: it’s the end of the chapter, not the whole story. The last days of high school are so often romanticized as the most important time in a person’s life. Movies like “Superbad,” “Pretty in Pink,” and even “High School Musical 3” suggest that there is a single moment at the end of the movie where the characters become adults through prom or graduation or the last party of the year. I love these movies, but I hardly believe that. I have grown over the past 4 years into the person I am from the small moments, not some radical life-changing metamorphosis due solely to prom or the last day of school.
Thank you JCHS. I am not the same person who walked in four years ago.