A Letter from One Pandemic Senior to Another

Image courtesy of Jamie on Flickr

Image courtesy of Jamie on Flickr

Hina Matsumoto, Managing Editor

Alas, it is the long-awaited May of our senior year. 

Growing up in the north shore Chicago suburbs, senior year felt especially coveted to me. The countless cult-classic films that have taken place in this area have created this term that I like to call, “the north shore senior year.” Mean Girls, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and countless more movies take place in this otherwise quite insignificant blip on the map. The “north shore senior year” is the kind of year where school spirit oozes through the crevices in the doorways, the kind where homework oddly enough does not seem to exist, and the kind where we all set differences aside and become unified for once. 

It is glaringly obvious that I, or the rest of the seniors who live around here, did not live out our “north shore senior year” dreams due to the pandemic. For me, this year felt less liberating and much more frustrating. There was this nagging feeling that this year felt relative to the others. Every moment spent was always compared to the universe where COVID-19 didn’t exist, or how it was in the first half of last year. My definition of senior year was not one that was sustained by itself–the survival of its existence was wholly dependent on my experience of the previous years of high school.

Since mid-April, I have been studying for multiple AP exams, including my AP European history one. It is quite self-explanatory, but memorizing historical events has been very difficult because a lot has happened in the Western hemisphere over the past six hundred years. Like, a lot. Although the structure and accessibility of secondary education has dramatically changed over hundreds of years, I am sure that there have been countless equivalents to our concept of senior year that have been crushed by the circumstances specific to the time period. I can imagine that a poor Victorian-era boy had to endure walking through the stench of garlic on his daily commute to school while simultaneously finishing his final year of schooling during the bubonic plague. Or another high school senior during the Cold War era worrying about integrals while also experiencing never ending dread over a nuclear war that could turn America into crumbles with a snap of the president’s finger.

My aim here is not to sound like a well-intentioned, but misguided peer who tells you that “at least you’re not a senior during *insert traumatic historic event*!” The school year that we have experienced has been difficult–and that my point is that there is in fact, no standard senior year. As society is ever changing, so is our definition of the final year of high school. I do not think that my growth as a person or a student was stagnant this year, as well as I do not think that my peers have gone unchanged since March of 2020. We are all experiencing our fourth year as seniors, not juniors experiencing our final year of high school, contrary to how some may believe. In a warped sense, I feel that we are truly experiencing the “north shore senior year.” We have the collective experience of what it is like to be a pandemic senior–we have become unified for once. 

Each grade has experiences that are specific to how society was at the time–and for this year, it happens to be the pandemic. What matters more is how we, as a grade, were able to navigate through these obstacles and create our definition of senior year.