Madison Young (second from left) and her friends prior to the 2019 homecoming dance at Ranburne High School. The students missed their prom in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic.
Photo courtesy of Madison Young

Madison Young on being a senior in high school — ‘Not everything is going to go your way’

I’m Madison Young. I’m 17 years old and a student at Ranburne High School in Ranburne, Alabama. I go to Macedonia Baptist Church in Cleburne County. My parents are Wendy and Chad Young, and I have two older brothers, Clayton and Sam. We’re a very tightknit family; we do everything together.

At [the beginning of the pandemic], I was with my friend at a tennis match, and we were kind of joking about how people were overreacting. Then they said school was out until the end of April, and I said, “Oh my goodness; this is crazy.” I was kind of in denial. Then we got a call that school was canceled for the rest of the year, and that’s when reality set in. I thought, “Oh my goodness. This is real, and I’m not going to go back to high school.” I was really angry at first.

I’ve been waiting for this for 13 years! I’ve been in school; I have a graduation; I want to spend this last year with my friends, and I’m not even going to get that. I was really upset.

Lost time

I go to a very small school; my senior class is 55 maybe. You would think because we’re so small we’d be really tightknit, but we really weren’t up until this year. I started talking to people I normally wouldn’t talk to, and we all started to bond, and then this happened. That was one of the things I was looking forward to — just spending the last couple of months with my classmates.

And then of course, my senior prom got canceled. I’m a girl. I love to dress up and look like a princess. That definitely stunk. That was one of my biggest disappointments. I love prom so I was very prepared. I was supposed to go to two proms actually. So those dresses are just hanging up in my spare bedroom, and I just go look at them sometimes and think about it.

Missing traditions

We always have a senior breakfast where we all go to the (school) lunchroom and eat together for the last time.

And of course, there’s graduation. That’s probably the biggest, biggest thing to me. You go to school for 13 years to walk across the field, and I was going to get to shake my dad’s hand (he’s the superintendent of Cleburne County Schools) and have him hand me my diploma. I was really excited to go up in front of my classmates, my family, my friends and be like, “I did it!”

My biggest challenge (during the shutdown) was not being able to go out with my friends because I’m a social butterfly. I like to be out a lot, hang out with my friends or go eat with my friends — really just do anything.

It felt really weird to not be able to go see them as much as I normally would.

First, I looked at the situation from a very selfish outlook. This isn’t how I wanted things to be, how I wanted my senior year to go. Then as it got more real and as it evolved into something else, I realized that not everything is going to go your way.

And then our church started doing Zoom meetings on Wednesday nights. We were on Zoom … and our message was about disappointments and about how God doesn’t make the bad things happen, but He allows them to happen. Everything has a reason. I started to explore in my mind about the reasons why this could happen, and I realized I have a lot more free time now. I can’t hang out with my friends, so I would sit in my room. I would see a devotion, and I would read it.

I finally developed a mindset of looking at the bright side. I got to spend more time with my family, and I was less distracted by worldly things. I could sit at home and enjoy family time and watch a sermon on TV with my family. It was just an eye-opener for me. I started off in a bitter fashion, but it made me realize that sometimes He’ll put those roadblocks there so you can look around and see what you would have missed if this wouldn’t have happened.

I’ve definitely appreciated my grandparents a lot more. Our family is very close-knit so we haven’t been able to see them as much. One of my grandmothers had a birthday, and we would normally go over and spend the whole day with her. We really couldn’t do that, and it made me very appreciative of normal times. It’s the little things that you take for granted, like seeing your grandmother. It’s stuff you don’t think about on a daily basis that has changed. It makes me more grateful. It opens your eyes to the blessings that God has given you.

I made her a cake and took it to her, and she sat on her front porch and we talked to her. We talked about memories of my granddad and all our family. It was very special.

Some friends and I had a social-distancing picnic. We all brought our own food, and we all sat 6 feet apart from each other. We just sat around and talked and that was really fun — different, but it was just fun getting to see how creative we could get with our plans due to coronavirus.

My brother’s wife had a baby about 4 months ago. We’ve been able to see them because we’ve been around them since the beginning.

They live just down the road from us, so we’ve been able to see them a lot, which is a very big blessing because I don’t think I could last too long without seeing her (the baby).

Adapting to change

I’ve been raised in church my whole life. My dad’s a deacon, and my mom works in the nursery. I love going to church. I’ve always loved the people there. I got saved when I was 12 or 13. I’ve known the Bible stories my whole life. One day it hit me very hard that eternity only comes with Jesus. Everything is going to fade one day; the only thing that will last is Him.

I want everything to be perfect all the time, and I want everything to be my plans. So I think the hardest thing for me was having to let go and let God take control of everything. Ever since I’ve done that, everything has been so much better.

Of course, I struggle. Of course, I’m not perfect at all. I’m not perfect, but I serve a God who is. You just have to keep your eyes on Him.

EDITOR’S NOTE — As told to Margaret Colson. In Their Own Words is an oral history of Alabama Baptists during COVID-19. The interview has been edited for clarity and space.