It’s hard to describe the collective American psyche right now. The initial fear and chaos that came with the advent of COVID-19 has dissipated, leaving a vague sense of uncertainty in its …
It’s hard to describe the collective American psyche right now. The initial fear and chaos that came with the advent of COVID-19 has dissipated, leaving a vague sense of uncertainty in its wake. Older generations are worried about their health, rightfully so, and millennials are concerned about job security and raising their young children. But the youngest generation, Gen Z, doesn’t seem to have much to worry about. We’re just high school kids; we don’t understand the real world. We don’t get to be upset because we have the rest of our lives ahead of us. This is just a blip. Well, allow me to enlighten you: We’re upset.
“There are people dying.”
I see that comment at least 20 times a day, underneath a teenager’s post about missing their friends, or prom, or graduation. These comments usually come from people who were recently teenagers themselves or aren’t that far removed from that portion of their life. And they can’t be disputed: It’s a fact that people are dying. So young people are expected to sit silently in the shadows of social grief, expected to ignore their own emotions, or else be publicly persecuted for feeling that way. This is wrong.
So, let me enlighten you and illustrate the situation from a high school senior’s perspective. I have worked tirelessly for the last 13 years—pulling all-nighters to study, packing my schedule tight with classes and extracurriculars—all in the hopes of walking across that stage to receive my diploma. I have met some of the greatest people I know within the last year alone and have been excited to make memories with them. I have to say goodbye to my friends and family in a few short months, and I wanted to make these moments count. Now, that has been ripped away from me, seemingly overnight and with no one to blame.
We are not naive. We were born in the aftermath of a national tragedy, we were raised during a time of great political turmoil, and now, some of the most defining moments of our short lives are being overshadowed by a global pandemic.
We are not unfamiliar with devastation. We know that this is far larger than our problems. We know that there are a tremendous amount of people suffering, in pain and grieving. But my recognition of the suffering of others does nothing to alleviate my own.
Pain is relative to one’s own experiences, and right now, we are hurting. Perhaps our pain isn’t as great as that of others in the grand scheme of things, but it is still pain. Prom, graduation, senior trips—those may seem infantile and unimportant to you, but that’s because you most likely had a choice when you were our age. We don’t have a choice.
So, let us be upset. Let us be sad about missing opportunities without having to feel ashamed. We are young, but we are feeling the same uncertainty that you are. So, when you are spreading kindness to those who need it, don’t overlook us. And to my fellow seniors, I’ll leave you with this: this will pass. It will be difficult, sad and lonely, but you will get through it. You will make more memories, you will get to hug your friends again, you will get to dance the night away and your hard work will be recognized. Our day will come.
Katie Wilson is a resident of Damascus, Pennsylvania and a senior at Honesdale High School. After graduation, she will be attending the University of Massachusetts to major in Journalism and minor in Political Science.