Dear class of 2021,
Congratulations! We have faced challenges that no other class has, and still, somehow we’re graduating!
But it doesn’t really feel like how we expected it to, does it?
We’re stuck in this weird back-and-forth cycle; feeling excited that things are slowly returning back to normal and looking forward to college or other post-graduate plans, yet feeling our stomachs drop every time we think about how we didn’t get to spend our last year in high school with the people we grew up with. How are we supposed to celebrate the end when it feels like we just experienced the beginning? For some of us, the only memories of high school seem to be distant remnants of junior year — arguably the most academically challenging year of our lives, filled with late nights of SAT classes and frantic AP cramming rather than stunning senior sunrises and silly second semester shenanigans.
And it’s okay to feel this way.
The pandemic robbed us of so many of the dreams we have carried with us since we were freshmen. I remember wearing my ugly, bright orange Spirit Week outfit, staring in admiration at the class of 2017 staking their claim on the senior deck in their camo gear. I couldn’t wait to be like them: the people who dominated Spirit Week, who arrived at school in their elaborately decorated cool-kid cars, who jubilantly played Spikeball on the Quad while underclassmen watched them through the windows of our classes.
Although the pandemic stripped us from these stereotypical senior traditions, it didn’t keep us from continuing to make precious memories in unconventional ways. In fact, I think we received almost just as much as we lost.
We were still appointed as team captains, club presidents and editors who led with resiliency, paving the way for underclassmen during this unprecedented time. We were granted a uniquely high degree of autonomy to make crucial decisions –– leaving a legacy that generations of students will look up to.
How are we supposed to celebrate the end when it feels like we just experienced the beginning?
And despite these unfortunate circumstances, I know many like myself have gained a newfound appreciation for the little things that we took for granted over our first three years of high school. For one, I’ve learned to say “yes” a lot more. I’ve learned that a five-minute study break to Douce France isn’t going to hinder my chances of doing well on an upcoming test, and (safely) hanging out on the Quad with people I’m not close friends with would only be awkward if I think it is. I’ve also learned that Tame Impala will still sound good even if I make small talk with classmates instead of keeping my earbuds in throughout the entirety of passing periods. I now cherish the initially-awkward-but-wholesome exchanges with teachers and classmates –– the fast-paced conversations that simply cannot be achieved while frantically clicking the little microphone on my Zoom screen.
It’s hard to let go of what was supposed to be the “best year of our lives.” It’s hard to let go of something we didn’t even get to have. It’s hard to find closure. But hey, doesn’t that mean we have so much more to look forward to in the future? Doesn’t that mean that we’ll continue to live each year as if it were our best and take the lessons we learned from this one into the next? I know I see it that way.
So, seniors, as we celebrate the bittersweet end of our high school experience and venture off into the world, let’s continue to take challenges in stride. Let’s continue to make the most of our days and years –– because although a global pandemic can postpone events and shut down public spaces, it can only get in the way of our senior pride if we let it. And I, for one, don’t intend for that to happen.