At our freshman orientation, Fenwick Principal Peter Groom promised the class of 2020 that the next four years would fly by. I do not think anyone anticipated that not only would this be true, but also our time together would be dramatically cut short.

As the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic has become more clear, our final months of senior year disappeared. Classes, extracurricular activities and competitions are canceled. Spring sports and performances have been put off. Now prom is canceled and graduation is in question. We have had no choice but to settle into a new normal of eLearning and social distancing.

Having these final milestones put to the side is a loss we are still grappling with. Senior year is supposed to be the culmination of our high school journey; a time to celebrate how far we have come, recognize all we have accomplished, and look forward to the adventure ahead. Even more difficult is the fact that we must reconcile our grief with the understanding that our problems are insignificant compared to the overwhelming fear, loss and tragedy sweeping across the globe.

A month ago, as my expectations for senior year began to crumble around me, I could not begin to comprehend how surreal my life felt. Since when did I live in a teen dystopian novel? Adjusting was, and is, difficult. However, as much as it hurts, I am trying to focus on the positives.

In an unexpected way, I have been blessed with extra time with my family, which is even more meaningful right before I leave for college. Instead of racing to keep up with my busy schedule, I now can enjoy family dinners every night. I can call my grandma without being pressed for time, and I have reconnected with people I have not spoken to in years. I have garnered a greater appreciation for the little things, like reading a book with a cup of tea and sitting outside on a warm afternoon. The situation is certainly not all sunshine and rainbows, but focusing on the simple pleasures helps me stay positive.

Moreover, quarantine has strengthened my appreciation for my friends, my classmates and my school. Between the FaceTime catch-ups, motivational videos sent by faculty and students, and endless messages of encouragement, I am overcome with gratitude for the communities to which I belong.

Although COVID-19 has separated the class of 2020 physically, I believe it has also brought us together. We appreciate each other even more now that we are apart — we certainly are not taking anything for granted and we will not allow this pandemic to derail our senior year. Using technology, we stay in touch. We help each other with eLearning struggles, share random videos to brighten our days, and are always ready to talk. Our four years together has defined our bond, and our continued support for each other during these months is only strengthening it.

At our freshman orientation, Mr. Groom told us to look to our left and to our right: These would be the people we would spend the next four years of our lives with, all the way up to graduation. Next month, I may not have the opportunity to sit among my classmates one final time at commencement. I may not have the chance to look to my left and to my right and see the faces of friends who were once strangers. But it will be OK. We, as a class and as a society, will pull through this trying time with hope and mutual support.

Our class will celebrate together as soon as we can. In the meantime, we can take comfort in the memories we have made, the friendships we have formed, and the lasting legacy of the class of 2020 that we have built together.

Eva Homberger, a senior at Fenwick High School, resides in Oak Park.

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