The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 17, 2020 1:00 am

'A last hurrah all its own'

Seniors of 2020 find final days unlike any other

Bethany Villaruz

I've had quite a few last days of school. It's always a joyful event – there's a carefree atmosphere, a lightness in the air (and the backpacks) as students prepare to forget everything they learned in math class and fill their minds with sunshine and pool floaties. Last year's last day was unusually cloudy, but laughter filled the halls all the same as the last bell rang and the final – well, final – was collected.

“That's it,” I heard one senior girl giggle to her friend. “We're done with this forever.” As I followed the pair to the parking lot, I imagined what my last day of high school would be like – perhaps an easy exam, followed by a celebratory lunch with my best friends. Afterward, we would reminisce in our college T-shirts until it was time to kick off our last summer with a barbecue in my backyard.

As it turns out, nobody really knew our last day was our last day. The school merely emptied like any other Thursday at the bell. Although there was buzzing about the dreaded coronavirus, very few people expected the next few months of cabin fever that would ensue. As I trudged to my car, I exhaled with relief, wholly unaware it was my last day of classes. The week was nearly over. Only two months left – in between homework and rehearsals would be prom, senior skip day, the last musical, last paper, last everything.

It was a relaxing thought. Soon I could put the brakes on my GPA and let the ending to my high school movie unfold.

My senior year has been a lot less “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” and a lot more “Contagion” than I expected.

I mean, that's OK. It's not the end of the world to miss out on high school milestones – generations of homeschoolers have done without, and we're meant to be flattening the curve. It's a small loss compared to the lives COVID-19 has taken.

But I must admit that there is something disingenuous about the way this year has ended. No ceremony, no montage of tears and laughter and memories as we prepare to move on. Instead of signing yearbooks, I watch my peers' senioritis worsen through a screen. We have been brusquely interrupted by the world – our last day was like an unfinished cadence, a dissonant chord waiting to be resolved.

I think I've moaned quite enough, though. Losing our last few months of high school is but one small sacrifice in this new world we live in, and there are no rules saying we can't compose the last chord of this composition ourselves.

Although my friends and I are mourning the loss of a real (that is, normal) last day of school, quarantine has been a last hurrah all its own. I have more hours in a day than I know how to spend, and have consequently become much more productive. I've spent more time with my family (and my dogs) and started to appreciate the little time I have with them before leaving for the Great Unknown that lies at college.

And perhaps the most important thing quarantine has given me is the opportunity to pay my respects to Fort Wayne.

I'm saying goodbye to my friends and hometown slowly, relishing long walks through the winding suburbs I call home and virtual movie nights with my friends. I might like to think otherwise, but I know the beauty of the little moments that make this place home would have gotten lost in the shuffle of a busy, traditional senior year. This is a different sort of goodbye from the one I envisioned, but that doesn't make it a bad one.

The notes in my senior year's final chord are not the ones I envisioned. But a melody is slowly growing from the dissonance, spinning from the final last day into the first days of our future.

About the author

Bethany Villaruz is a Homestead High School senior. She will attend Princeton University in the fall to study English and journalism.

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