My son, a high school senior, has been accepted to college. As with every other college-bound kid, he’s been thinking about and working toward this goal for years and was intensely focused on it during the two months before the world shut down in the second week of March. In his mind’s eye, he was looking forward to a few more months of classes during which he’d attend his senior prom. This would be followed by a two-week internship and then a graduation ceremony in Philadelphia, with family members coming to town from Connecticut and Ohio to share in the celebration. After that would be a summer of work at a local ice cream shop where he’d recently been hired for a part-time job. Then in August we’d pack up the car and drop him off at school for the beginning of a four-year adventure in education and independence.
But now? In a world without time, nobody knows. What’s left of senior year is a series of ad hoc and largely aimless online assignments and herky-jerky Zoom meetings. There will be no prom or internship. The ice cream shop has closed and may not survive. Graduation almost certainly won’t happen, at least not in June, when it was originally scheduled. If it takes place at all, it will probably be online, with extended family staying safely at home.
And college in the fall? Schools are already talking about delaying their fall semesters, or running them entirely online. Paying tuition for my son to stare for months at his laptop screen in his bedroom at home? That doesn’t sound smart. So maybe my son will take a gap year. But to do what? There are unlikely to be any jobs available. There certainly won’t be opportunities for travel. It’s possible he will have to get used to the idea that a year (or more?) of his life will be spent in suspension. Not moving backward, but also not moving forward. More like sliding sideways in slow motion.