Standing at Childhood’s Gate

Standing at Childhood’s Gate

I was never the type to peak in high school, but my senior year had me feeling like I was starting to hit
my stride. As the weather warmed and graduation grew even closer, it was hard to hide the excitement
that was in our bones. In a few months, we would be scattered across the country—and for some, even
across the world. We laughed in our classes while deciding against the homework that was “due.” The
famed senioritis grew and grew inside of us as one by one, we accepted offers of admission to the
universities we had dreamt of. Life seemed so good, so easy.

I remember those moments when the illness spreading across the world became real for us. I was
standing in my high school’s auditorium with my fellow student body officers when we made the
decision to cancel the dance concert that was set to open that evening, knowing that there would be
blowback. We shuffled off to a glorified closet that doubled as our office space and started to have
hushed discussions on what the next few weeks might have in store for us. I tried—we all tried—to be
positive, taking the stance that this would be just a little extra spring break and we would be back to
finish senior year. But deep down, each of us worried that it would be the last time we would stand in
that room. It was.

I spent that night at a friend’s house, celebrating the start of spring break with the eccentric group of
artists that had somehow collected themselves into a friend group. We broke out the substances we
managed to get our grubby little hands on, ignoring the fact we were all so scared that night. We were
already facing the uncertainty of entering adulthood in just a matter of weeks, and now we had to do it
during a pandemic that made every part of life uncertain? We didn’t want to remember it, and I
certainly do not.

I felt robbed. We all felt robbed. We had suffered through the hell that is high school to miss out on the
fun part? There would be no prom, no saying goodbye to the people who had just shaped our last four
years, and no pomp and circumstance to celebrate the fact we made it through. There were soul-crushing moments after announcements of more events and milestones being canceled, where all we
knew how to do was cry. We held each other from an arm’s length away; trading late nights in Kate’s
basement for cold evenings in the Mormon church parking lot, laughing together from a distance.

In the many hours of discussion since, there are still parts we struggle to process. Some moments bring tears to our eyes, words leaving us all misty. My heart aches when I think of all the teachers I never got
to thank for their important parts in my journey. I get a pit in my stomach when I remember that I have
left the comfort of all I have ever known—that when the world returns to whatever semblance of normal
we can find, the life I knew before won’t come back with it. I think there is something almost poetic
about being a young adult with no clue how the world works while the entire world is trying to figure
that out, too. There is no doubt that all of our lives have been altered, but I can’t help but to feel jealous
over my little brothers who didn’t lose major life milestones or my parents who already had them long
ago. COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees in many ways and each and every one of us has lost
something because of it. I think that everything will be okay in time, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get the
closure I wanted. Don’t get me wrong; I did not peak in high school, and I did not particularly enjoy it
either, but I wish I could have said goodbye to a place I’ll never go back to. I wish I could have said
goodbye to being a kid.


I wrote this piece to help make sense of the last year of my life. I was a high school senior in 2020 when it seemed like the world got turned upside down. I think that it is hard to tell other people about the experience because of how unique it has been without being something that isn’t all that important. Regardless of all the more important things that have resulted because of COVID, there are still little mundane things that were also lost.

About the Artist

Madison Allen,  Centre County
Published:  April 19, 2021