A High School Eulogy


Riley Keiter

The emptiness of the library and the commons full of isolated, code-scanning, phone-focused, half-faced students, are a haunting reminder of just how much things have changed.

Caché Goracke, Editor in Chief

The bell rings. 

Over the intercom comes the voice of an administrator: “OK students, it’s time for first lunch, please find your way to your designated seat for the year.”  The noise begins to crescendo as the buzzing of masked students fills the hallways. “Remember to remain seated when you are done eating. Do not get up to visit friends.” 

Making their way to the commons, students sit one-per-table. Some combine tables together and yell across to their friends in between bites of chips and swigs of chocolate milk, though many simply sit alone. 

The intercom again: “Make sure to scan the QR code at your table.” 

 I am one of the students that sits alone. After I finish my lunch, I often look around and take in the unusual scene. Some eyes stare into the distance, while others are anchored to their phones. While I find it disheartening, I am not always exempt from the latter. 

Other times, I make my way to the library. As I take in the quietness of the room, I can’t help but be discontent. But it’s a library, right? It’s supposed to be quiet. Quiet, yes, but not empty. I think of the years past, all the memories I’ve had in this place. There should be girls whispering secrets to each other, someone in a backwards flat-bill hat lugging around a skateboard, obnoxious freshman boys yelling at each other, a couple sneaking kisses behind bookshelves, and at least five or six focused readers lost in another world. Instead, there is me who sits on the floor, one other student doing math homework, and that is all. 

It’s been one year, almost exactly, since the fourth quarter of 2020 snuck away without saying goodbye. That day, we left for spring break ignorant of the fact that it would be a long while before we returned, and that quite honestly, it would never be the same. We’ve been tossed in and out of different schooling methods. Remote, to online, to hybrid, to remote again, and then back to hybrid. Yes, dear graduating class of 2020, I am grateful that I get to have a senior year at all. And not all of the experiences have been bad, like inviting your friends over early in the morning to share coffee and donuts as you log into Zoom-school by 7:45 a.m. But now that we are back in person, the emptiness of the library and the commons full of isolated, code-scanning, phone-focused, half-faced students, are a haunting reminder of just how much things have changed. 

There has also been, of course, the anxious academic confusion. With the exhaustion of words like “unprecedented,” it has become increasingly more difficult to decipher whether or not there is justification for the burdensome lack of motivation felt. Are the unprecedented times just an excuse? Could I be trying harder? I am not asking myself how much blame I can get away with putting on the pandemic, but rather how much blame the pandemic truly deserves. It seems I have caught the symptom of fatigue without even catching the virus. 

It is like an old woman who carries a sense of loss while she watches life go on from a distance, remembering the good old days, but disappointed by the sorry attempts to grasp them again. I know the movies that raised me were embellished representations of the high school experience: “High School Musical,” “Lemonade Mouth,” “10 Things I Hate About You.” In the words of an AJR song, “Maybe I’m stuck on what I see on TV. I grew up on Disney.” 

But, while no one ever broke into song during the first three years of my high school career, making it not exactly compatible with “High School Musical,” those years sure felt a little magical. Things like carrying piles of blankets to face-painted football games in the cold air, deep talks and hysterical laughing in English class, and losing your voice the day after you packed the car with your friends and rode to an away basketball game. Everyone seems so lost in their own thoughts these days. Endings are supposed to be a little sweet mixed with a little sadness, but this particular one just feels so tragically anticlimactic. Time will tell if things ever go back to normal, but for ones it has changed on the inside, how can they?

The bell rings again at 3 p.m. 

Students trickle down the stairs and through the halls, making their way to their cars. The doors open occasionally as the students leave, letting in the air from outside. Perhaps because it’s my senior year, but there is a subtle sadness that hangs in the air with the fresh smell of the spring time. As I walk to my car, I notice the administrators helping clean up. The smell of their cleaning products mixes with the air. I can’t help but feel like I’m on the outside looking in on it all. A strange, new, futuristic universe. The dull feeling, like the Clorox, lingers.