by Marin Fehl | May 6, 2020

Dear COVID-19, You Ruined Our Senior Year

The missed milestones and un-made memories we’ll never forget

For the Class of 2020, COVID-19 means unworn prom dresses, empty yearbooks and no final goodbyes. Photography by Stanley Morales

How shall we begin this letter? We cannot start with: “Dear,” for you are hardly that.

COVID-19, you have brought a sickness with a long list of symptoms: loss of taste or smell, fever, cough, difficulty breathing. But we have a few complaints of our own to add: unworn prom dresses that we can’t return, yearbooks with no messages from friends, a senior picnic void of revelers, graduates with no graduation. And, a final goodbye that we never got to say.

To be sure, the plight of high school seniors is not your most devastating effect—not by a long shot. But we must bow to you all the same. There’s a certain degree of respect we must show for something so ruinous, even if it can only be seen under a microscope.

We’re missing the ending of something we’ve worked toward for 13 years. When we drove home from our last day of high school, should we have laughed and celebrated like we were supposed to? Cried? Sighed with relief? Should we have made promises to meet up with friends? To visit teachers? To stay in touch? None of us are sure. We didn’t give much thought to that drive home from school because we did not realize it would be our last.

So, now we’re staying home. We’re going to classes online, seeing friends on Zoom, listening to our administration promise a summer graduation, maybe even a summer prom. It feels a bit like you’re laughing at us. Maybe you are.

“We didn’t give much thought to that drive home from school because we did not realize it would be our last.”

We know we have to move on at some point. Some of us are on our way to college. We want to buy things for our dorms and sign up for classes in the fall. We wonder if you’ll even let us do that.

That’s really the worst part. You didn’t just take away our goodbyes; you took away the certainty in our lives. Some of us were thinking about college in Arizona, a roommate with the same music taste and a new start. A far cry from college classes in our parents’ living rooms. We wanted to be reporters, to meet new people, to tell stories that aren’t confined to four walls. We were dreaming.  

We still can, but it’s different now. It’s hard to picture ourselves in dorm rooms, cheering at a college football game or taking our first final exam. How can you dream about a future that might not exist? We are sure that we’ll move on at some point, but it’s not easy realizing that it may look nothing like we hoped.

Before we can really say goodbye to high school, though, we will have to throw a party or two. A last hurrah, even if it’s raising a glass over Zoom to a commencement ceremony that never happened. And though you may show up unwanted anyway, like you do everywhere else, we would like to let you know this: You are not invited.

The Class of 2020

Marin Fehl, 18, lives in Odessa and is graduating in May from Hillsborough High School in Tampa.

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