Sept. 8, 2020, 8:45 a.m. The first day of senior year. Instead of walking to a locker in the seniors’ hall at Valley Catholic, I walked 7 feet across the room to my desk, sat down at a computer, and braced myself for what might be nine months of Zoom classes. Despite the teachers reminding us every day that this was senior year, it felt like a continuation of spring 2020. My parents called it the “quarantine time warp.” Part of my brain didn’t register that it really was my final year of high school.

Then I received my voters’ guide and ballot in the mail.

Oh no! Adult responsibilities! Let’s see … could I remember anything potentially helpful from sophomore-year government class? Maybe. One benefit of having the entire family learning from home was that my older brother (a college sophomore) and I could both participate in election-related discussions with our parents. Talking through the ballot helped, even though I might have developed more questions than I had before we started our discussions.

Somehow, with the grace of God, I made it through my first election, only to immediately switch gears into Virtual Stage Manager mode. Thanks to the pandemic, our fall production went virtual in 2020, so my fellow techies and I adjusted to calling the cues over Zoom chat and making sure everyone’s virtual backgrounds, cameras and audio inputs were working properly. The production was a lot of fun, even if it was odd to perform the whole thing in a webinar instead of onstage.

Meanwhile, as I juggled seven-page papers, statistics, ethical theories, online orchestra and Zoom theater, it was college application time. Of course it was. Why settle for just one stressor when I could have all of them? Per the encouragement of my parents, teachers and college counselor, I attempted to make the “early action” deadline for at least one college. I knew that with everything I had to do, I’d never make the Nov. 1 deadline, but Nov. 15? I could do that. Right?

Right.

Even if it negated my sleep for about two weeks.

The frenzy of application season finally calmed down during Christmas break, but the endless cycle of scholarship deadlines had just begun. So much for “break.” I gave myself a few days off to rest and celebrate the birth of Christ with my family and then it was back to work writing and revising so much that I could feel my eyes crossing and my brain melting.

Come January, decision letters started arriving. Included in several of them were invitations to apply for university scholarships and for the university’s honors program. Both of which meant, of course, more essays. Wonderful! By this time, I was used to sleeping six or fewer hours per night in order to get my work completed, so I firmly believed I could make space in my already homework- and activity-packed schedule to write several more college essays.

As the close of the first semester approached, teachers informed us that the final would be a project or a paper, thanks to the difficulties of proctoring a final exam over Zoom. Of course, because I am a perfectionist, I wanted every detail of every project to be A-worthy. So, I spent more time than I probably should have rephrasing my sentences, painstakingly outlining my designs, and absolutely overstressing about each little thing.

And then it was over. Boom. Just like that, half of my last year of high school was finished, and I barely registered that I only had five months of school left before graduation. Thank you, quarantine time warp. I looked ahead to the spring semester, hopeful that the addition of more elective classes and the potential to return to campus would fill out my last months at Valley.

Part 2 will run in an upcoming issue of the Sentinel.

Rocha attends St. Anthony Parish in Tigard and is a senior at Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton. She is a member of the Catholic Sentinel Youth Writers Corps.