AUGUST 29th, 2022 marked the first day of my senior year of high school--my last first day of grade school. I’d prayed for so long for that day to finally arrive. If the years leading up to it were a raucous symphony with a gradual increase in volume for every one that passed, then 12th grade is the grand crescendo. I thought seniority would bring an innate sense of maturity and superiority. I had been doing this whole school thing for well over a decade; consequently, I should definitely know the ropes come this final year.
Well, now that the much-fantasized year has actually arrived, I find that so far, it has not lived up to my expectations. I feel neither joyous nor mature nor superior within my position. In fact, all I feel is greatly confused—not within my ambitions, per se, but with how to maximize the minimal time left I have to be acknowledged as a child.
I know exactly what college I want to attend, how to pay for it, and what career I want to get out of my future education, which is exactly as it should be, given how much time over the past few years I’ve dedicated to ensuring all of that. But don’t ask me how I intend on keeping my social life alive and well before that phase of my life kicks in. The answer I might provide to that question probably will be less than adequate.
My interpersonal struggle stems in part from having nearly three very important years of my teenage life taken away from me by the coronavirus pandemic. Quarantine and mask-wearing did not allow for trips around town with friends or visits to the movie theater or a day at the amusement park. Hell, there was a strong possibility I could die simply by giving a friend a heartfelt hug. In short, there was very little opportunity for me to experience the frivolity of teenagehood while I along with many others had to fight for our lives. Because I have been denied those privileges for so long, I have no idea how to fully move forward now that we as a nation have a more relaxed attitude toward the pandemic.
Senior year is not only my last year of high school, but also my last year to do silly things, be naive, and move with little monetary concern regarding my future. My last year before being expected to join the society of adults keen on making a meaningful contribution to the world they live in, a task far heftier than anything I’ve ever been asked to do.
How will I spend this final grade school year? Will I be reckless simply for the sake of being reckless? Will I make an effort to tick off every item on my ‘Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 18’ bucket list? Will I spend it caged away in my apartment, allowing the fear to hover over my laptop as it did the during those early brutal years of pandemic lockdown, only because I can find nothing else to do? Or perhaps like the many other children in the world, I’ll simply take it one step at a time.
Though my days as a carefree child are coming to an end, I know I will have many opportunities to have fun if only I trust the path I plan to take.
Alycea Gayle writes a monthly blog for estherproductions.com and is the youth coordinator for its Discovering Me…Scholarship Award contest.