Op/ed: A letter to Darien High School seniors

Dear reader —

I know you are probably sick of the word coronavirus. I know that clickbait is causing anxiety for you all right now. If it makes you feel better, I have zero scientific background. Or any meritable knowledge for that matter. What you’re about to read is basically a journal entry that I decided to share with you.

I first off want to start by addressing any other readers outside of my high school senior peers.

It is incredibly difficult for me to wrap my head around what is going on in our society today. I am so saddened knowing that much of the world is unemployed right now, in stressful financial situations, and feeling trapped. I am also saddened and aware that much of our society is grieving the loss of a loved one to this terrible virus.

I struggle with finding a balance in addressing my position here. I recognize that I am a 17-year-old girl with a roof over my head and three meals a day through this crisis. I acknowledge that I, my family, and my friends are healthy. I recognize that things could be much worse.

But I am still heartbroken.

The anxiety and stress of the pandemic that each day brings, for a large group, is accompanied by a brutal truth that I am personally struggling to face: I may not be going back to high school.

Darien High School is an extraordinary place. The building in it of itself is bursting with opportunity and has an outlet for every single passion you may have. If the club you want doesn’t exist, you can make one. If the sport you play doesn’t have a team, you can start one. We are incredibly grateful to have the resources to support almost every student activity.

However, because of this, there is an implied competitive nature to the school that is undeniably intimidating for much of your high school career.

Darien High School is known to breed exemplary students. Star athletes, talented musicians, borderline geniuses, and accomplished artists roam the hallways. If you are a fly on the wall, like me, you come to notice the confidence each individual develops with their forte by the time they are a senior.

The second semester of senior year, though, is the time where we can let loose- just a little bit. It’s that walking recovery between the two intimidating sprints: one being the previous hump of junior spring and senior fall and the upcoming hump of our first semester at college. We can finally walk and not be worried about our pace or where we stand in comparison to our peers.

We take pride in the hard work of our classmates. We celebrate it. And we are no longer intimidated by it.

In any English class, most students subconsciously identify the climax to any book, passage, or story. The climax is the most intense moment in the reading. It is also, arguably, the most important.

I like to think of the climax as that pause in your breath when you’re trying to teach yourself to meditate, that follows the inhale, and precedes the long exhale. (Go on, try it. And don’t deny that you have tried it before.)

This year was our climax. It was our year to become captain of that team. It was our year to become an officer of that club. It was our year to be featured in that show.

In general, time goes by too fast for the exhale. We would have finished senior year feeling on top of the school, on top of the world, and at the tippety top of our breath.

But now, we are cut off on that inhale. Suffocating.

And the sadness goes beyond the loss of those individual advancements and involvements in your respective clubs, shows, or sports.

I am sad that I may lose the part of high school where we push aside every label and enjoy every moment we have together.

The senior dinner. Senior prom. Senior skip day. The senior send-off. Graduation.

All those textbook moments that we have been looking forward to for our whole lives are potentially flushed down the drain.

And to the adults- who I am sure to have begun to see what the constant presence of social media is like as a result of this pandemic; recognize the effect that it holds on our expectations for those “textbook moments.”

We have seen the photos circulate from years past, anxiously awaiting our turn like puppy dogs.

And now the opportunities may have slipped between our fingers. And we deserved them.

I hope that with that in mind, seniors can express their disappointment. Know that it is ok to be sad.

However, I also hope that we maintain a global perspective and continue to express our work ethic and inclusivity throughout this crisis.

So with that in mind, let’s be the class of 2020 that we are known to be and reach out to anyone in need of our help during these harsh times.

Let’s offer our help to the other seniors. The seniors who may not be able to shop for groceries safely and the seniors who may not feel comfortable walking in to refill a prescription.

Let’s be the first seniors to work just as hard our senior spring as we did for the rest of our high school careers- just maybe in a different way.

And let’s see the silver lining of our current quarantined status- and make the most of every moment we have with our families together before that shadowing first-semester college “sprint” catches up to us.

We are living through history. Let’s make it.

Lily Genovese is a senior at Darien High School and a regular contributor to The Darien Times.