I’m a very sentimental person.
I don’t want to repeat the same statement that has been said a million times already, but senior year was supposed to be the peak of my incredibly short-lived secondary school experience. Not to say this was supposed to be my year--nor did I want it to be--but that my brain had pre-constructed this year, well in advance, to be viewed with rose-tinted glasses. It truly hit me last night: in addition to suffering a nasty sinus infection, I was sitting on my couch watching my school’s homecoming game virtually instead of in-person. While I could have tortured my immune system and went anyways, it reminded me of the routine concessions I have had to make in my personal and academic life this year.
On the surface, everything is still there. It’s still school--but with masks and social distancing. It’s still speech and debate--but virtual. It’s still cramming for tests and worrying about when your next LOUDwomen blog post is due--but with the added stress of college and scholarship applications. The problem, as with a surface-level analysis, is the lack of nuance and complexity. I miss being able to congregate with my friends even if we’re an alphabet of letters away. I miss in-person forensics tournaments, deeply, even if recording a piece once and being done with it for a month is a luxurious concession. I miss not being stressed--even though I set myself up with a high course load this year--and the youthful mindset of being oh so excited for the college application season. However, I can recognize that being stuck in this mindset is poor for my mental health; I have to make the best of what I’ve been given. This part of my life is only a small fraction of what I’m going to experience.
Still, the foreboding sense of possibly doing a last of something without knowing it hangs over me like a dark cloud. If I would have known last year that I would compete at my final Tiger’s Eye tournament, I would have tried to remember every detail of the objectively best tournament of the year. Now, I struggle to remember the complexities of that weekend, and it haunts me. Instagram reminded me of my optimism from my caption last year:
“One more left! :)”
I would love to say that this collective period of society has been “nothing of what we’ve wanted and everything we’ve needed,” but that’s naive to say. A part of me will always be empty thinking about what could have been: one last Tiger’s Eye, an in-person Arkansas Governor’s School, and vibrant school celebrations without any restrictions. Nonetheless, those experiences, however cliche the following statement seems, will not make me whole. I have to search for substance in my limited experiences this year, even if they’re buried under layers of rock.
I’m navigating my “new normal” by still doing what I’ve always done. I’m still finding ways to talk with my Cabot and NWA (miss y’all the most!) friends, perform in forensics and debate with conviction, and navigate this confusing, irritating, and stressful college application process. I’m still watching and reviewing hundreds of movies, religiously listening to Phoebe Bridgers and Lizzy McAlpine, and searching for my newly-lost sanity after taking AP Calculus BC. I’m reminding myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so bright and illuminating and intoxicating that when I finally reach it, I won’t be able to describe it. Yes, even at this time, I’m a very sentimental person. I still haven’t quite found the words to say goodbye to it all before I move away for college, so for now, I reflect and find happiness where I can.
I leave with this: if it takes my senior year to try and stop any more than the already 214,000 COVID-19 deaths from happening, so be it. While I might be struggling with dealing with lost memories and experiences, even the possibility of saving one human life trumps all that I’m feeling. Please stay safe & healthy, wear a mask, and vote. Please. My heart goes out to everyone affected, and my heart cannot be any more rooted in the sacrifices our generation of youth is having to make every day for the common good. We will get through this, one step at a time.
Clayton Kincade (he/him)
Cabot High School Senior