Fantasy vs. Reality: Pandemic throws a wrench in graduation dreams, college plans

Charlotte Spears, second from right, celebrated prom with her family. (Photo by Melissa Bugg)

Senior prom was not at all what every coming-of-age movie had led me to believe. We set up a dinner table in the driveway with streamers and takeout. My parents and sister were my dates.

A few weeks later I graduated from Grady High School on my living room couch. Not that I was expecting a “Legally Blonde” or a “High School Musical 3” graduation but watching the names and faces of my childhood friends on a Powerpoint wasn’t what I had worked 13 years for.

I had a hard time coping with the fact that my coming-of-age story wasn’t going to look like the ones in the movies. I didn’t have a wild summer before moving away to college. Instead, the most exciting thing I did was sit in a socially distant circle with a few of my friends in a church parking lot on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Those months were filled with anxiety about whether or not any of us would be able to go to college. I was scared that as soon as I bought throw pillows or a shower caddy, I would get an email from Davidson College regretfully informing us that we would not be starting the best four years of our lives in August.

It was a confusing, stressful few months in a purgatory between childhood and adulthood. Treading in place. Unsure if my college plans would work out.

The bystanders to our church parking lot circles would offer their condolences to the Class of 2020. But we all began to realize it was a confusing, stressful few months for everyone. We all learned to grapple with the wrench thrown in everyone’s plans. And while I appreciate the sympathy given to my peers and me for our different type of coming of age story, I wouldn’t trade it.

I ended up going to college in person. I made a small group of close friends that I probably wouldn’t have made without the crowd restrictions put in place by Davidson. I had a great grip on my classes. I learned to roll with the punches. And above all else, I spent the last few months of my childhood alone with my family, playing lots of trivia, going on plenty of walks, trying takeout from restaurants we had never heard of and dancing to New Edition in the backyard.

No, it wasn’t like “Say Anything” or “Lady Bird.” But it was mine, and in hindsight I would take that living room graduation and the backyard prom over those movies any day.

Charlotte Spears is an Intown resident and freshman at Davidson College. She is the former editor of Grady High School’s award-winning student newspaper, The Southerner.