This is it, senior year. The time that many of my friends and I have been waiting for since we first stepped foot into the Jenkins Auditorium as freshmen. Three years later, and what feels like 20 years older, we are unbelievably changed. Despite everything, we made it; and it is absolutely nothing like I thought it would be. 

Going through a pandemic for a large portion of your high school career makes it really hard to feel normal. One minute we were sophomores, staying in Mr. Gallagher’s classroom until 6:30 at night working on the upcoming print edition, and the next we’re seniors, finally able to be back in the school. We spent the end of our sophomore year stuck at home, and for many, the entirety of junior year the same way. 

I was fortunate enough to spend the last few months of last year in person with my peers, but not everyone shared that opportunity. Now we’re all back, the halls flooded between classes just as they used to be, the stands filled at football games, pep rally just before Thanksgiving and the auditorium packed at the Friday night premiere of the school musical. And as much as everything has returned to normal, there’s one thing that still doesn’t feel right: we’re seniors.

I guess you could say I’m in denial. I wasn’t given the full chance at growing as a sophomore or junior, and suddenly I’m pushed into a handful of leadership roles, at the top of the school, supposedly a role model for those younger than me. 

Believe it or not, I am fully aware of my age and the position I am in coming into this newfound sense of responsibility, but that means absolutely nothing when it comes to how it feels. Just because I know I’m 17 doesn’t mean I feel that way, and just because I know I’ll be graduating from Malden High School in just six short months doesn’t change the fact that there are days I wake up and still feel like a sophomore.

When you lose so much time, your inner clock doesn’t adapt. At least that’s my experience. I spent so long in a state of solitude that I think something inside of my mind forgot to feel my growth. It’s almost as if I didn’t process it. But how is it possible that I let nearly two whole years go by without realizing it? That can’t be real, right? 

Somehow it is. We recently had our annual pep rally, a tradition that was halted last year during remote learning, and the whole thing felt very strange. I remember our freshman year pep rally vividly. I know where I sat, who I sat with, the way that I left the gym and the fact that I didn’t take a single photo with anyone and proceeded to go straight home to make casserole for Thanksgiving for the next day. But more than anything, I remember the looks on the faces of the seniors. The Class of 2019, celebrating their victories in the different events, revelling in the defeat of underclassmen, dripping in blue and gold. I remember thinking to myself, “that’ll be us one day.” Now that time has passed, it is us. We are those seniors, the Class of 2022, screaming at the tops of our lungs for every free throw made and every gain in tug-of-war, but I feel a disconnect. I don’t feel like a senior. 

There must be at least one time every week that I look up at one of my friends and say something along the lines of, “we’re seniors, this is our last time doing this” or “we’re graduating in a few months.” And every time, it’s like I’m just making that realization for the very first time. Our class has been seniors for three whole months now, but I still refuse the notion. “We’re not seniors, how could we be, we were literally just sophomores.” 

It’s all moving so fast. We sit down in AP Lang and discuss college essay advice, then we meet with our guidance counselors to go over Common App and everything we need to know before we apply for the path that builds the rest of our lives. I go home and narrow down my list of schools, sorting through the endless piles of mail sent from universities I’ve never even heard of before. I take all the steps, I do all the work, I follow the plans and I carve the path, but I can’t take the first step. I can’t admit that I am going to be a college student soon, that I’ll be an adult. I can’t convince myself that my time here is almost up, because I’m terrified of this changing. 

I love The Blue and Gold. It’s become my comfort over the last four years. I pour my blood, sweat and tears into every single print edition and every project I produce. I want to leave my legacy with this paper and make sure that everyone that comes after loves and appreciates it even a fraction as much as I do. I want to make my mark, but it’s really hard to do that when part of you doesn’t want to move on. 

I’m grateful for so much that has happened for me in the last two years. Throughout all the pain and wrong, I have been able to find a light, a reason to grow and allow myself to become this person I am, whether it be a senior in high school, the Editor-in-Chief of the paper, or simply Lauren. Now I just need to chase it, following it out of the dark to wherever it may take me. I’m teaching myself to embrace the changes, to be okay with it.

Six months. That’s all we have left. To make a difference, to do all the high school things we want to do, to take it all in. So yeah, I can’t comprehend that now, but check in with me in June and maybe then I’ll finally feel like a senior. 

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