Adelaide Evans

Adelaide Evans

In the August 2020 we hoped for, teenagers would have been dragged back into the school year — catching flights home, scratching sunburns and pushing shopping carts through crowded aisles. We’d be anticipating teachers and classrooms, spending our parents’ money and fitting in a final summer sleepover, while counting the days we had left before opening the textbooks.

Now we don’t even know what we’re counting down to.

Early in the coronavirus crisis, we saw the 2020-21 school year as the light at the end of a tedious tunnel. Everything would be normal by then.

Now normal is off the table, and the light that we expected school would be for us, could be just another train hurtling in our direction. Even if schools reopen, we’ll be returning to a classroom situation unrecognizable from the one we left behind in March. Whether it’s masks, social distancing, half-size classes or plastic-shielded desks that come into play, we know that this semester won’t feel anything like the normalcy we’ve craved. 

We haven’t even begun to grasp our new reality, and how far it is from what we thought would be, on the other side of the pandemic.

We’re used to problems flaring and fading at the pace of cable news. The truth about most of the incidents we have encountered so far is that they felt fleeting and often did not affect us personally. Emotions and action would stir around a single subject, then vanish in a matter of weeks.

Coronavirus has forced the U.S. to confront the issues it gave up on too soon: Black Lives Matter; a broken health care system; the future of DACA; LGBTQ rights; poverty and homelessness; voting rights and fair elections; climate change.

We’ve been tempted to give up on the coronavirus, too. We believed that COVID-19 would spark, but not burn. Many of us haven’t accepted, yet, that we’ve been in flames for months.

So much has risen to the surface during coronavirus, we can no longer ignore the fact that there are systemic issues we’re going to have to work on. 

We teens need to grow up faster than our parents did, because we’re one of the generations that’s been flung into dealing with world-changing challenges. Our grandparents went from high school to Vietnam; they marched in civil rights protests; they organized for women’s equality. Our great-grandparents suffered the Great Depression and fought in World War II.

2020 is like living in the eye of a hurricane. In the midst of it, almost all you can do is brace yourself. Until the storm subsides, you can’t see the magnitude of the damage — but you also dread having to.

We’re going to have so much to clean up. 

The problems that were simmering before haven’t vanished because of COVID-19. They’re still there, and we have to accept that we’re the ones who will face them. And it seems that we haven’t fully grasped that we can’t be kids anymore. 

We have so much to do now; so much to change. But I think we show promise. We’re joining protests all over the country. Six teenage girls organized the massive Black Lives Matter protests that had 15,000 people marching in Nashville, Tennessee. TikTok activism is a new force in social justice. We’re talking to our parents about what matters to us and the way the world should be. We’re raising money for the change we want to see.

I won’t pretend that I’m not still saddened by how much has changed in recent months, and unsettled about what the coming months will hold. But now I care more about a different future and what we can do and give to make it real. 

Our rites of passage are going to be different — they’ll happen less on stages and more in the streets we march and the conversations we have and the minds we change.

 

Adelaide Evans is a Seattle-born Australian-American and rising freshman — class of 2024. She is a news intern with the Southeast Express and hopes to make a career in medicine. Contact her at newsroom@southeastexpress.org.