COVID-19. We are so tired of hearing about it at this point, yet it is still so relevant to our daily lives. The novel coronavirus pandemic is ruling our world, causing nearly everyone to experience some form of suffering.

For recent high school graduates, not only are we mourning the loss of the end of our senior year — including prom and graduation ceremonies — but we are wrestling with feelings of uncertainty as we prepare for unknown beginnings of our college careers.

The end of high school was supposed to be bliss. So is the start of college. I’m starting to wonder: Will the class of 2020 have neither?

We have always known the order of our lives, ever since we were kids: grade school, junior high, high school and college. Every study session and AP exam has been leading up to this moment: a time when we spread our wings and make a leap, officially, into adulthood. We’ve been waiting for this for so long.

In my mind, I’ve always envisioned going to college as a glorious moment of freedom, where I move into a dorm room away from Mom and Dad and seek out new friendships and new experiences. In my family, going to college has not only always been a given, but it’s been an expectation. My parents have always planned for me to have this chance to further my education and determine my passion.

But then came March. The novel coronavirus swept the world and the nation, and every plan, every finish line and every goodbye got ripped out from underneath me. The long-awaited moments I’d been looking forward to got canceled week by week.

“Prom is canceled? It’s OK. There is still hope for senior Mass,” I said.

Then senior Mass was canceled, and I said, “It’s all right. Maybe we’ll have a graduation.”

But, of course, there was no graduation either.

I finally stopped allowing myself to build up hope that everything would get better in time to say proper goodbyes to my classmates — people I’ve known for at least the past four years. Eventually, I began to understand the virus was not simply a passing thing that would disappear by June but something that would significantly alter the world as we know it for years to come.

For me, this means college joins the long list of plans that can’t actually be planned.

My first roommate? Perhaps not possible, as we might have to quarantine in our dorms.

Rushing for Greek life and introductory parties? Maybe with masks and lots of hand sanitizer.

The thrill of my first college class, surrounded by students from around the country and beyond? It might be online instead.

Nothing will ever be the same, and even still, I can’t come to terms with the idea that my freshman year of college might not happen the way it was meant to.

I have had time to reflect — mostly in sadness and disappointment — and I know I’ll never forget the feelings I’m having right now. Still, amid all the heartache, I see some valuable things to which I otherwise might have been blind.

Mostly importantly: Life is never a given. No goodbye is ever certain, and you never know when what you have will be gone.

Going forward in life, I certainly will say “thank you” to my family much more often, hug my friends like I may never get to again, and give gratitude every day for the classes I attend and the assignments I have to do.

Even though nothing will unfold as I expected, would it have anyway? Life is always uncertain, and the coronavirus — though I despise the havoc it has wreaked — has taught me to count my blessings and thank God every morning when I sit up in bed.

Sofia Ortiz is a graduating senior at St. Michael’s High School. She will attend Trinity University in the fall. Contact her at sofiagoesgreen10@gmail.com.

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