By Ivy St. Clair
A Santa Fe High senior shares how COVID-19 has uprooted her teenage experience.
When I look back on March 12, 2020 — the day my life was turned upside down by COVID-19 — I am overwhelmed with emotion.
I remember waking up that morning, going to school and completing a relatively standard Friday as a junior at Santa Fe High. Of course, I was aware that the coronavirus was evolving and spreading rapidly across the country and the world. But I hadn’t realized how close to home it had gotten.
When we got the call from Santa Fe Public Schools saying school had been cancelled for the next two weeks, I was excited. What teenager wouldn’t love an extra-long spring break?
If only that’s what it was.
What began as a brief intermission from my 11th-grade year became nine weeks of quarantine and online classes. I was hopeful my senior year would be saved and that I would be able to start my last year of high school normally. To my chagrin, however, my summer never went back to normal.
As the virus worsens once again, and the first quarter of school is officially remote, I’m losing hope for that fate of my senior year.
Ever since I was little I’ve been looking forward to high school. Specifically, my senior year. Twelfth grade is said to be the best year of school in a person’s adolescent life.
I had begun to feel what’s known as “senioritis” by the second semester of my junior year. I was ready to get out, but at the same time, I was nostalgic about all my high school experiences thus far. Little did I know that soon, a global pandemic would rob me of many of those staple late-teenage experiences.
I’ve already missed important milestones and will miss more: my junior prom, virtually the entire summer before my last year of high school, countless college tours, and most likely my senior homecoming. It’s hard to watch your last years in your hometown get taken out from under you.
But with adversity comes perseverance and creativity. It’s important to find and keep positivity during difficult times, as scary as they may be.
The new normal: Solitary hikes, social distancing...
In the last five months, I’ve found myself much more appreciative of things I took for granted before COVID-19 invaded. For months, my only form of solace was my immediate family, the Internet and nature. I spent most of every day outside, hiking, running or just simply embracing the beautiful place I’m privileged enough to call home.
For years as a child, I hated living in Santa Fe. I thought it was boring and ugly. With time, that changed. I can accredit much of the appreciation I’ve gained for my hometown and my state to the quarantine placed on all of us by the coronavirus.
Recently, I’ve found comfort in spending my days outdoors and at parks around the community. My most-frequented spot is Patrick Smith Park on East Alameda in downtown Santa Fe. There, I can see some of my friends (from a reasonable distance and while wearing masks). While I feel as if the social aspects of my life have been entirely rerouted, any traces of somewhat normalcy I can find are soothing.
My summer was packed with plans, most involving my future and the exploration of what was to come in my first years of adulthood. The summer preceding your last year of high school is supposed to be your final chance at deciding the direction you want to lead your life in. I had many college visits planned, and even a journalism intensive program with the New York Times. But these plans quickly changed, and suddenly my somewhat planned-out path was askew once again. Online campus tours and Zoom-call tutors have helped me imagine what my life will look like in the future, but the pressure of deciding where you want to spend your collegiate life without leaving your bed is intimidating.
I’ve found myself feeling scared for my future and the ways in which coronavirus will affect it. For years, I’ve been confident in the way I want to lead myself into my adult life, but now that the only constant in my life is the Internet and the family members I live with, I feel differently. Will I be able to go to college on time? In urban settings? Or even in person?
Many teens, especially within my age range, are facing distress due to COVID-19. Everything we once knew has been obliterated, and it’s become hard to be optimistic about the future and what it may bring.
“I’m fearful that the world will never return to the way it once was,” says Sebastian Schriber, a rising senior at Santa Fe Prep. “I’m worried that the virus won’t ever really disappear, and that we’ll all be forced to adapt to and live with it.”
This fear seems to hold true to many teens in our community, including myself. I fear that our futures have been taken from us before they can even begin. I’m trying my hardest to remain positive and hopeful for a vaccine to be found and all of our lives to return to normal, but every day my confidence in that possibility shrinks.
From the standpoint of someone whose life has potentially been permanently altered by COVID-19, I am in awe of the way our country is handling it. The lack of compassion and moral ground that I am observing throughout the officials in charge of our nation disgusts me to the core. Now more than ever, we need a government that is going to prioritize its people and their lives over capitalistic gain.
From someone who feels as if their last years of childhood are being destroyed: Please wear a mask, please do your part, and please think about others before you do yourself.
Support IS Available
If you or someone you care about needs emotional support, don’t hesitate to reach out. Help is just a phone call, text or click away.
The Sky Center of the New Mexico Suicide Intervention Project maintains an extensive list of Local and National Resources, including:
Download a printable version of the Sky Center Resource List, with these and many other services.
The Santa Fe County Community Services Department maintains a downloadable resource directory for families in English and Spanish, with these and other emergency, crisis and non-emergency services throughout the county. For printed copies, call (505) 992-9849.