Opinion | Dear seniors, I see you

By Julia Kreutzer, Senior Staff Columnist

When I left campus in March 2020, I was desperate for respite from the stress of my sophomore spring semester. I never expected to return as a senior.

I don’t need to tell you what happened during the “spring break” that extended throughout my entire junior year, but it is startling to think that with only a year and a half of on-campus experience, we are now leading student organizations, completing senior seminars and finally cramming in the general education requirements we’ve put off. We’re supposed to soak up our last moments of college — in many ways, the last moments before being thrust into adulthood — without even fully knowing what we’ve missed. 

I remember watching the Class of 2020 lose these meaningful final moments, the rugs ripped from beneath them, left only with an eerie sense of fear and grief. Amidst Zoom graduations in pajamas held in childhood bedrooms, they and their families wished for all of these experiences that we’re now being thrust into. If loss defined 2020, 2021’s word is “redemption.” It feels like we are expected to make up for this time that was stolen from so many others, all while working through confusion and grief of our own.

We’re dealing with more plagues than just senioritis, but amidst the chaos, we must make room for all of the emotions this year brings — good and complicated. 

Mark Brown, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, published his “what I miss doing most” list in February. He writes of the little things, like reuniting with the “Pesce Bianco al Spinaci” at his favorite Italian restaurant, to the big things, like foreign travel or visiting Washington D.C. after the attack on the Capitol. He asks us for help in renaming “The List,” as he calls it.

“It’s not a bucket list exactly, though, for many of us older types it might double as such, if you understand bucket list to be a bunch of stuff you want to do before you kick the bucket,” Brown said. “Maybe we should call it … the Lost Time List because we’re all going to be trying to make up for lost time, which is coming up on a year now. Whatever you call your list, I hope it can carry you over until the better times ahead.”

I have a “Lost Time List” of my own — trivia at Hem’s, petting strangers’ dogs in Lawrenceville or watching a live production in the Charity Randall Theatre. Now, it seems, is the time to do it all. Yes, the list is somewhat trivial, yet it’s also a profound way to redeem the sense of simple enjoyment that the COVID-19 pandemic stole from us. This reclamation feels urgent — after all, a bucket list takes on new meaning after more than 4.2 million people globally have lost their lives. 

But completing our Lost Time Lists takes — you guessed it — a lot of time, leaving very little for the other things that we need or want to do. Author Rosanne Cash tweeted on March 14, 2020 — which, if you remember, is the day the world crumbled — that we could look to history as an example of how to make use of our quarantine.

“Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear,” she tweeted. “AND he did it without toilet paper #nopressure.” 

We were flooded with reminders like Cash’s, told that productivity was the way to survive the pandemic and come out with a masterpiece of our own. Spoiler — I didn’t write my “King Lear.” But I still feel like I have to. I’m coming out of the pandemic with crippling anxiety that I am not doing enough, and as such, I want to fill my senior year with productivity. It feels like we have to prove that all this was worth it.

Senior year is the time for living in the present — which is much harder to do when confronted with the frightening prospect of losing our student identities and being burdened with the grief of the past year and a half. My to-do list is getting longer — complete my Lost Time List, work toward my seminal masterpiece and savor my last year in Oakland. 

This year is, unfortunately, not the “return to normal” we’ve longed for. We are plagued in more ways than one. The pressure of making the most of our senior year has taken on many new forms for the Class of 2022. It’s going to be another complicated, exciting, stressful and confusing year. All this to say, if you’re struggling to process the emotions of being thrust into seniordom — I’m right there with you. 

I don’t have the answer as to how we should spend our senior year, but at least we get the chance to search for it.

Julia writes primarily about social issues and politics. Write to Julia at [email protected].

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