My best friends and I unintentionally skipped the last day of school. Third quarter had drained us, we were tired, the finish line was in sight, and one day off before spring break seemed harmless. That Friday was sunny and beautiful, one of the first real spring days. It was freeing. We were finally on the downhill slope of four crazy years. That night, a few of us went to Thai Noodle Wave, followed by our mandatory trip down the highway for boba–two of our favorite places that we’ve sat in for hours. We were excited. Things were finally coming together, and we were genuinely happy to go back to school. I would do just about anything to go back to that day, to actually go to school and thank all of the teachers who’ve impacted all of us, to hug the people I knew I’d never see outside of school, squeeze all of my friends a lot tighter, and tell them we were in this together regardless of how hard things got.
On my first day of high school my dad played “Rock & Roll High School” by The Ramones as we sat in the faculty parking lot. He promised me it was a perfect representation of what the next four years would be. I can’t say I was ever “cruisin’ around in my GTO”, but I never looked back. A month ago we didn’t think we would have a graduation, everything disappeared so quickly. The Ramones lied, it was certainly not all rock and roll. Things got real, really fast. Before I continue, I want to clarify that this is not a sob story nor a pity party. The graduating class of 2020 does not need any more pity. We know the world is struggling, and we must be part of the effort to eventually put our world back together. As difficult as this time is, we can make the most of all of this just as every single graduating class has done before us. Ours will just be more unique.
I’ve been hearing a lot more clearly in these past two months of isolation, I’m more focused and aware of things that I would’ve never stopped to listen to. My aunt told us about a mentor she’s had throughout her career who lived by the phrase, “When there’s a reason to celebrate, you must celebrate”. I immediately wrote that down. I think it’s fitting for the Class of 2020. The world is hurting right now, and it’s easy to only see the negatives. I’ve spent a lot of time focused on them. Our feelings are valid, and it’s disappointing and so unfair. Many of us are struggling with what comes next, and our futures seem to be put on pause as the world around us is moving at lightning pace. I am desperate to go back to school, to sing in a choir, and feel somewhat normal again. I don’t know when any of that will happen, nor do I think anyone does. It’s hard to stay positive. I rarely can. Despite everything, I remind myself that there are a lot of things to celebrate: healthy families, safe homes, stable incomes, wonderful friends, as well as the graduating Class of 2020.
It’s time for us to celebrate, to thank the people who got us here, to look forward to a new beginning, and most importantly, learn from what’s happening around us. Many seniors were not lucky enough to have a socially distant graduation. For those of us who are, we must be grateful and acknowledge how lucky we are to have something to celebrate. When we began this year I knew the Class of 2020 was special, we were a fresh start, a new decade, and the possibilities were endless. Well guys–we certainly got our big ending. It might not be the one we so desperately wanted, but it will be in our children’s history books. We have a choice to make. We all get to choose what side of those history books we want to be on. Will we be among the people who followed guidelines, responsibilities, and advocated for change? Or will we be among those whose careless actions cost people their lives and loved ones? We are young, the world is at our feet, but we are far from invincible. Our actions now determine how we will live the rest of our lives. Our ignorance has the ability to destroy lives and communities. Stop and think. We do not need big parties, extravagant ceremonies, or events to celebrate. Yes, they’re nice and something we were all looking forward to. But, we do not need them. I’ve realized over the past few months that I only need a few things in life: my family, my friends, and maybe a keyboard when things get really hard. Huge graduation parties were nowhere close to making the list. Large gatherings are unnecessary. Lean on one another in small, safe groups, and focus on helping the world move forwards, together.
The Class of 2020 has the ability to be on the right side of history, to learn from the mistakes being made and work for change in the future. For four years we’ve all sat among the next generation of global leaders, people driven to change the world, and truly make a difference in the issues that forced us to grow up. This pandemic does not have to silence us, but rather teach us resilience, advocacy, empathy, and the importance of global awareness.
Thank you Class of 2020, for giving me the best friends and memories I could’ve asked for. You’re all incredible people who have taught me more than I could’ve imagined. In four years we’ve learned the most from one another, and I continue to learn from all of you. I wish I knew what the next chapter of our lives held, or even what the next year was going to look like. I know we’re all struggling to stay grounded and hold our heads high. Truthfully, I am no ball of sunshine, as I consider myself a realist and in times like these it gets old. I ramble on for hours about every aspect of this pandemic, eventually having no idea what I’m even saying. Nonetheless, my friends and family entertain it because they know it’s how I’m wired. They give me grace everyday as I ramble on, and I’m trying my very best to return that grace. We’re all waiting, hoping for our world to heal, and perhaps like me, rambling a little too much. We have to be patient, nothing worth waiting for ever came easily or quickly for that matter. The world deserves our grace. It needs it, desperately.
It’s our world now, and we choose how we spend the rest of our lives. The possibilities are truly endless. We have to make the most of these times at home, figure out what’s really important to us, and who we want to be when the world is ready for us. The world doesn’t know what’s coming.
Wear a mask, wash your hands, and give everyone some grace. We’re all in this together.