March 13, 2020, me and my friends pack up to leave school, excited about the extended spring break.

True, all of our plans to travel had been canceled due to this new virus that had just started spreading across the country. Did I ever think that when I walked out the door that day I wouldn’t be coming back–absolutely not? My Junior Prom dress is still hanging in my closet, wrapped in plastic. Maybe I will get to use it for my Senior Prom if we ever go back to school.

Suddenly, the time off wasn’t a welcomed relief. It actually felt like punishment. We weren’t allowed to see our friends, do our extracurricular activities, go shopping, or basically even leave our house. Our parents were glued to the TV and while they tried to show us a brave face, we could all see that something bad was happening. The stress levels in the house accelerated and fast. Dad was no longer going into work, Mom was working from home, my brother and I were doing school online. Nobody seemed happy. Nobody seemed focused.

The summer came and we tried to relax a little bit more. Things were definitely different-no sports, only visiting close friends outside, after a good twenty questions from my parents about the social circles of others. The pools were closed, even going to our lake house seemed a forbidden activity.

And after much debate and heated letters and meetings with parents, my senior year of high school starts online. No getting to go to school to be the cool seniors, no senior week, no football games and parties afterward, no homecoming dance, no getting to visit colleges in search of what is next. At times dare I say, no hope.

After months of isolation and bad news after bad news, I find my mood has changed. I am not sure if it is fair to say I am depressed, but I am definitely sad. I have seen changes in my friends. One friend in particular has taken this really badly. She doesn’t have the best home life, so being restricted so much to home has been hard. I have noticed her withdrawing from our friend group, sleeping longer and later, not caring about the simple things we used to chat about. Now, if we were at school I would probably go to my counselor, but since we aren’t, I just hope she realizes this is just something we need to work through, and we can do it together.

Friends, check in on your friends.

If you notice a change, speak up. Let them know you are there and that you care. Tell them to find an adult who can help them if necessary. I know there are teachers at our school who care and will still take the time to talk to us, even if it is simply over zoom. Is that more impersonal? Yes, Is it better than nothing? Also yes.

I am not sure what this next school year will bring. Yes, I am tired of talk of pandemics, masks, social distancing, and politics. Yes, I am also a little afraid. Yes, it is getting harder to stay positive but I am going to try.

If you feel lost or scared, know that there is someone around you that wants to help you. Be a friend, find a friend.

Senior in High School, Elk Grove High School, Elk Grove, IL

If you find yourself wanting to talk to someone, please do not hesitate to get help. Find a trusted adult to share your feelings with. We also have some information here that you may find useful.