How am I a senior already?

November 16, 2023 — by Meher Bhatnagar
Graphic by Leyna Chan
I’m hoping that this is what my graduation will look like.
Deep down, I still feel as lost as a freshman trying to find their way to the bathroom for the first time.

I speak for the entirety of the Class of `24 when I say — What. Is. Going. On. 

How are we already the oldest group of students in school again? As we speak, I am sitting here in the J-room, currently lost in thought about the future when a wave of nostalgia hit me.

Looking back on my childhood, it has been a long journey getting to where I am today, but I couldn’t be more grateful for the memories I made along the way.

As a first grader at Millikin Elementary School in Santa Clara, I dreamed of the day I would be a fifth grader walking up the stage and giving a graduation speech (which I did end up doing). But looking back now, I was just a naive 5-year-old who didn’t quite understand what middle and high school had in store for me.

As an incoming sixth grader to Redwood Middle School to Redwood Middle School, I remember being utterly terrified of the eighth graders. They looked like giants to me — literal 6-foot beasts — and considering what middle schoolers were like, I was right to be scared. I would mark middle school as the downhill for most of the Class of `24, starting with the cliques and the never-ending drama. Every day, I dealt with horrifying middle school “tea” and friend group conflicts. 

And to make matters worse, the food was terrible. I cannot fathom not being able to ever leave campus for lunch during breaks. Also … how in the WORLD did I manage seven classes of homework every single night? Middle school feels like a fever dream.

However, when COVID hit in March of 2020, we were suddenly plunged into online Zoom rooms. Missing our Great America field trip killed a piece of my soul, but on the bright side, school became so much easier. Of course, everyone had horrible attendance records due to oversleeping and avoided turning on their webcam like the plague. The tape and vaseline over the camera was my favorite way to troll the teachers and it coincidentally happened that my microphone was broken every day. Soon enough, half of my English class had “blurry” cameras. 

Graduating online had to be the peak of my middle school experience in terms of how ridiculous everything was. Due to COVID regulations, the normal in-person ceremony was switched out for a car drive-through ceremony where everyone was, indeed, 6 feet apart.  As I sat on the roof of my mom’s Acura in the West Valley parking lot, I recognized familiar faces I hadn’t seen since March. 

The anticlimactic “ceremony” lasted a total of 10 minutes and left us feeling empty inside. Three years of suffering through petty middle school drama, just for a quick car ride at the end?

From what I remember, freshman year was entirely a blur. I remember making it to about half of my classes and sleeping through the other half. I somehow managed to pass every class in spite of my messed up sleep schedule and my frequent in-class (on Zoom) naps. 

However, when I made my way to the first day of in-person school in the spring of 2021 after having almost the entire year online, my 9th-grade class looked very different from the graduating 8th grade one. Everyone seemed to have dyed their hair or tried new styles and makeup looks. I felt behind, in a sense. Everyone seemed to have developed a new personality … but I still felt stuck in my 8th-grade self.

Don’t even get me started on the seniors — which my freshman brain  thought of as “12th graders.” To 9th grade me, they looked like fully grown adults who could have been working a 9-5 job and supporting a family of four. Seeing myself as a high school senior felt a bit like imagining myself as an old person in a retirement home.

The remainder of high school was a flash of memories, both good and bad. The sophomore slump hit so hard for everyone in the Class of `24 after online school. All work assigned felt completely optional, so my friends and I would fiddle around with the grade tester in Canvas to determine if we should actually complete our Pre-Calculus Honors homework assignments or completely ignore them. 

As for junior year, I have two words: absolutely horrible. An experience I never want to relive. The grueling SAT preparation, multiple tests every single week and little empathy from teachers on late work made every second of my experience absolutely unbearable. Let’s just say, I am SO glad it is over.

What I’ve experienced so far as a retirement-home-ready senior is no joke either. Sitting in the J-room now, as I type this story, my mind is flooded with worries about completing all my supplemental essays in time for college deadlines. I swear, each draft takes a kilojoule of energy and is simply not worth my time.

It’s scary but so freeing to know the college application process will be done in the next few months, so I can finally go back to my COVID lifestyle where I skip classes and sleep through lectures. I’ve always suffered from procrastination even as a sophomore and junior, but now my senioritis is justifiable because it is my last year and I should “have fun with my friends.” Of course, I am looking forward to skipping classes (occasionally), going on spontaneous beach trips and generally having more free time during the rest of senior year.

 Other than the Class of 2020 who had their high school graduation online, I think it is safe to say that we suffered the second most out of all the other classes. The current Class of 2027,  the “freshmen,” only missed their 5th grade graduation. 5th grade? Really?

It’s absurd to me that we are about to end our K-12 education in just 8 months. In each of those years, life has hit us with unexpected events and waves of emotions, but I know that all will be OK soon. 

To the Class of 2024, I understand the struggle of feeling out of place in a new environment, not being able to wake up for an 8:30 a.m. Zoom call and even sleeping through classes, but on a more positive note, we are going to be reliving the freshmen experience all over again in a few months. Only this time, with so many mountains already conquered in high school, I am certain we will be ready for yet another epic climb.

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