A Teenager’s Look Back at 2020


Emily Overby

This was supposed to be my year- my junior year at Kenwood High. My first high school dance, my class rings, piano, journalism, everything.

Last year was my first at Kenwood, as before that I was homeschooled. But last year before I even got to finish my first full year, COVID-19 came crashing onto the scene of my high vision. There were students who didn’t seem to care about the virus, and others were scared to even breathe around people. I wasn’t too worried at first; I mean we heard stuff about Ebola too, right? And we never really had to deal with that here so COVID was going to be the same, right? But then they started talking about closing school for two weeks. Like probably any other teenager I kind of wanted schools to close for those two weeks. Two extra weeks for spring break, who wouldn’t want that?

Then school did shut down for two weeks, or at least it was supposed to. But then two weeks turned into two more weeks, then two months, and then the rest of the school year. School at home was easy enough. We didn’t have online meetings yet, and most of the work was reading a power point and doing the work to go with it.

Out of the house, masks became a rule, a law even. If you didn’t wear a mask in the store you weren’t allowed in. People began buying them like crazy. Other people used bandanas or made their own. But a lot of people, including me, were faced with the thought… do masks even work? And if masks do work then why do we have to stand six feet apart? If masks work, then why are so many people dying? I was left with all these questions that didn’t seem to have any clear answers.

People began buying all the food and supplies to prepare for a lockdown; you can still hardly find enough toilet paper or cleaning supplies for one person. They put limits on how much food and supplies you could buy because people were buying so much without leaving any for others. COVID-19 begin spreading through our community to the point that it was actually considered illegal to leave the house for a while.

My father is an essential worker, so he didn’t have much choice but to leave the house. Some of the jobs he works, it’s really hot and difficult to breathe, even more so because of the masks they were now required to wear. My mom babysits, so she didn’t have a job for a time because of her employers being out of jobs, also.

It became so hard to know who and what to believe. There was so much speculation of where the virus came from? No matter how many different conspiracies we heard throughout 2020, they all just posed more questions and no answers. Once we made it through Spring we couldn’t even really look that forward to our typical teenage summer as throughout our summer we were mostly kept inside, with nothing to do, but ponder our own thoughts and questions. When we did go out, we had to be as careful as ever.

We all were troubled at the thought of the upcoming school year. What could it possibly look like in this new COVID-19 world?

It was decided school was going to operate the same as before COVID-19 but through a computer we all hopefully had access to on a regular basis. The beginning was hard and confusing. There were kids who couldn’t get on their computers, kids who didn’t know how to work google meets, kids who couldn’t find their work, and the technology troubleshooting list went on. Even despite the technology troubles, what stood the most was all that we were missing.

I missed my first homecoming dance. We all missed it. We didn’t get to make pep rally happen, we didn’t have any spirit weeks or holiday spirit weeks in the halls and rooms of the school. My sister isn’t able to get the full authentic experience of culinary class like she looked forward to because we do school online now. My youngest sister isn’t able to get the help she needs with her work in her first year of middle school, because we do school online now. I’m being taught piano over a computer without a real piano to ever really play on. Concerts will be recorded on a screen rather than done in our auditorium in front of an actual audience. Students who love their sports and is what gets them through the struggle of school typically, have lost full seasons of their high school careers.

We may never get to some of our classmates’ faces that we’ve met or connected with through a screen. And if we do our smiles of joy of seeing each other in person finally will be hidden behind a mask.
Just when things were finally becoming “normal”, if any of this CAN be normal anyway, we had the ransomware attack on our school cyber system. School was shut down again. Once again, we were briefly left with an indefinite answer of long it’d be before we could “see” each other again. Though the separation was short, we came back to once again having to quickly learn and adapt to changes to our online schooling platform.

At first there were some bonuses to these 2020 setbacks. We got to sleep in, and pjs were our uniform if we wanted. But after a while, we began to miss having a reason to get up and get dressed. For me, getting up for online school is way harder than getting up for in person schooling. PJs don’t feel as fun during the day when it’s not PJ day at school with all your friends, sleeping in is the norm, and staying home on the weekends is no longer relaxing.

Now we’re faced with more drama and uncertainty with the talk of this vaccine. But can we really trust it? They’re still testing it and people are already buying it. We don’t even know if it works. Do I have to get it to go back to school? Have they even tested it long term on kids?

Now we’re headed into the tenth month and almost second year of this new world and it leaves our older students wondering, what about our seniors? This year was supposed to be amazing for them. We don’t even know if we’re really going to get to go back. What’s going to become of graduation and prom for 2021?

Then for us Juniors, will we ever get a prom? I have never been to prom and may never be. Will we get to have a normal graduation by next year? Or for so many of us is our whole high school experience just lost? Will I ever meet my classmates and put faces to those names displayed across my computer screen? Even though we deck out in blue and send photos in it just doesn’t feel the same.

The yearbook will feel lighter this year, while our hearts feel heavier. We don’t know when things will be better. We don’t know if they WILL get better. We all put on these brave faces and do what we need to do during school, but you’d never see the cracks in the children’s smiles over these screens the way you would in person. You can’t be there when a child panics during their presentation because instead of being able to step out of class with a student to talk them through their fear or anxiety, students can just turn off their mic and camera, disappear from our world online, and become beyond our reach.

This year has been so hard and so different, and we’ve had to adapt so much. Yet I’m left wondering is there more we can do to get back to our pep rallies, spirit weeks, sports, and friends and teachers in person. This can’t be it for our year; it just can’t.