Hatcher: COVID-19 killed my senior year

Tobili Hatcher, Staff Columnist

As I sit here trying to find the words to describe what it’s like to see your senior year get ripped away from your hands faster than a limited-edition Popeye’s chicken sandwich, I hate to say that I am still coming up empty. Actually, if I had to put into words what the past 19 days have felt like, the words empty, hollow and shook accurately describe what the March of my senior year has been. To be fair, in comparison, January and February were like a dream come true. It wasn’t until March 1 that my world got turned upside down. 

When Case Western Reserve University sent out their earlier messages regarding coronavirus, I thought they were taking the right preventative steps to keep students safe. Albeit, none of my immediate travel plans were forced to change. I understood why the university made the cancelations and changes that it did to ensure students were being kept safe while the country was trying to figure out exactly what was going on. 

However, as time came to eventually tell, CWRU began to dole out updates as fast as they were able to be typed up, and just like that, the senior year I had been craving for the past eight years slipped through my fingers. 

On March 10, CWRU announced that they would be moving to online classes until April 6. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it was something that I saw coming. In fact, I wasn’t even that mad. Sure, I have the attention span of a squirrel when I’m not actually in class, receiving face-to-face instruction, but I was willing to make it work if it meant I could see everyone in a few weeks.  

Then, Friday the 13th came. I remember falling asleep in the backroom of my job, only to be awoken by one of the other girls coming in to grab a purse to show a customer. I looked at my phone and saw that a new post was made in the school’s meme page. When I saw that it was about the school being closed for the rest of the semester, I thought it was just a joke. I checked my email mere seconds later, and the tears began to flow. That was the moment I knew that my senior year was truly lost and there was nothing I could do about it. 

I know that there are students who are also feeling like their time has been cut short. From kids in elementary school who just began to like the idea of going to school, to freshmen, sophomores and juniors alike in both high school and university. Seniors in high school, I hear you. I feel your pain, too. In fact, if it makes you feel any better, I had a similar situation happen to me when I was a senior in high school. It wasn’t due to a pandemic, but my high school senior year was cut down in a lot of ways and it’s something I still hold with me. I’m starting to sense that celebrating senior year just wasn’t made for me, after all. 

However, to my fellow almost-graduates, I especially feel your pain. We all knew that we would have to say our final goodbyes and finish this chapter of our lives when we walked across the stage on May 17, shook hands with President Snyder one last time and took it all in. What we didn’t know, or expect, was that we wouldn’t be given the chance to say our final goodbyes to one another. I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I have to accept March 5 as being my last ‘real’ day of my undergraduate education. That day, I wore sweats to class, almost failed a midterm (thankfully I did not), ran into my ex four times (still trying to wrap my head around this one) and only got to say goodbye to a handful of my friends. If only I knew then what my reality was going to look like two weeks later, I would have done it all differently.  

Alas, what’s done is done. My last year of college has come to an end.

Although the coronavirus took away some of the last goodbyes I would have been able to give, it didn’t stop me before I could say some of my favorite hellos. 

So, to end this on a positive note, let me share with you some of the highlights of my senior year second semester. I was able to find my passion in writing by taking a journalism class and writing for The Observer for the first time. I, surprisingly, met a nice guy, and although it didn’t last as long as I had wished it did, it was still fun. I was able to reconnect with friends from freshman year. I quit a job I realized I hated and spent many more nights making memories with friends rather than folding stacks of sweaters. I said hello to a college life that I was proud of living and happy to call my own. 

I guess I say this because while the coronavirus may have cut our senior year short and CWRU may have kicked us off of campus faster than the virus was even able to spread through Cuyahoga County, nothing can kill our spirit or the bond that holds the Class of 2020 together. I love and miss you all more than you will ever know. Hope to see you all around the halls of Zoom University until we meet again on our old stomping ground.