This is Mr. Marshall (the teacher, not the principal from your freshmen year). I don’t know how much you’re interested in the advice of your teachers; if you’re anything like I was at your age, you’re probably not putting too much stock into the many, many volumes of advice adults are heaping on you right now. It’s a silly rite of passage, but it is a standard part of graduation. And since we’re all probably on our 23rd round of looking for something to do from our homes right now, might as well read some thoughts from your fellow Papermakers.
I thought about giving you a top ten list of sage wisdom or three important points of advice (humans do like to group things in threes). But honestly, this past month I’ve just had one thought. We’ve all seen a range of emotions and tributes to the 2020 seniors, from sidewalk chalk to choreographed videos; porch lights and parades; photo tributes and video salutes; seniors desperately clinging to any last ounce of their final year, and seniors bailing out early ready to move on with their lives. It hasn’t gotten lost on the world that you are part of the collateral damage being spread by this virus; not victims in a life-threatening sense, but tragic nonetheless.
So here’s the one-and-only piece of advice that’s been passing through my mind these past six weeks: Don’t make these past four years the best years of your life. Your senior year was polluted, but it doesn’t have to be spoiled. We’re going to make the best of your final few weeks of school. We’re going to find a way to give you a prom. We’re going to open up Doc and let you toss your decorated caps. You will have your diplomas. I know we can’t give you your senior year of sports back, but if anyone wants to try to get their best curveball by me I’ve got a bat ready to go (I’ll get destroyed in any track and field competition, but we can still have a meet if you like). The point is, we’ll do our best to salvage some of your senior year and, who knows, it may even be more memorable because of it. But don’t make the mistake of thinking fatally. You have not missed out on the best moments in life.
Being a kid is great, and there will be things you miss. High school is terrible for some and great for others, but no matter who you are or what experience your past four years have brought you want to look back on high school not as the end of something special but the beginning of all the great things you will eventually come to experience. You get to be a grown-up now! You now have the freedom to learn in whatever way seems best to you, not based on a pre-set curriculum. You have the freedom to take risks on a business venture. You have the freedom to visit new people and civilizations. You have the freedom to eat a cookie whenever you darn well feel like it. You have the freedom to build a family or take it solo. You have the freedom to learn how to make friends based on something other than being randomly placed in the same first period class together.
It’s ok to be sad and wonder what you’ve missed out on, but please also be glad that it’s all over. Don’t be relieved; be glad. Because now you get to start working on the best years of your life.
Of course, you’d better come back and visit because we’re still stuck here…