Dear Class of 2020,
In just a few short weeks, you will all have graduated from eighth grade and you will begin taking steps towards your new journey as high school freshmen. This is an exciting, transforming, and rewarding point in your lives. In such a short period of time, I have witnessed so much growth in each of you.
I know that this year feels different than most. I can assure you that this same feeling is floating through the minds of your peers, your parents, your teachers, along with many, many others. This year has been a year of uncertainness, and while we can talk about the pressures each of us has felt, I would like to focus on the positives.
At a young age, you are living through a worldwide event, an event that will most likely change the way that many of you think and feel for time to come. You have watched life pause for a quick moment. During this time, you are missing what would have been a traditional graduation ceremony. You might have missed birthdays and holidays and vacations. You are missing time with your graduating class, but in a time of social media, I hope that while you may feel disconnected from your daily routines, you find yourself always connected to the ones you love the most.
While some of these moments will be missed, these are not the only celebrations you will have in life. You will have another graduation, another birthday, another trip to the beach. You will have another essay to write, another math equation to solve, and another game to win. You are learning now that sometimes bad things in life happen, but life does not stop. Life keeps going, and so will you. If you look closely, there is always, always something to look forward to.
So, as you all embark on the next stage of your young adult lives, I wanted to leave you with some advice to carry you through the next four years.
Make the most of every second.
Four years seems like a long time. That’s because it is a long time, but it will go fast. Too fast at times. It will go too fast on the days where you finally ace a test in your toughest subject; too fast during the months where you’re finally getting to know the person sitting next to you in math class; too fast when you begin applying to colleges and picking out what you will wear to prom. The good moments are the ones that are fleeting. Hold on to them. For four years, you are making moments that will become memories. Make them count.
I am not one for regrets, but if I had to pick one thing that I wish I could have a redo for, it would be this. When I started high school, I hadn’t quite figured out who I wanted to be. We know my sports skills are second-rate (and that is being generous). Some of you have heard my stories about how shy I was and how awkward I was (and still am). I felt like there wasn’t a spot for me in the places where so many of my friends were. I waited until senior year to get involved, and by this point, I only had a year to enjoy it. Get yourself out there in the beginning. Make a new friend. Try a new sport. Attempt a new hobby. While it may seem like the people around you have been practicing for years, the expert in anything was really once just a beginner.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
The truth is, no one notices your bad hair day except for you. The pimple that you think takes over your entire face is barely noticeable in a crowded hallway. And actually, despite what you may believe, every student will get a grade they are not that proud of at least once. What I am trying to say is that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. Negative thoughts hold us back from trying new things much more than anything else does. Silence those thoughts and take a risk- your adult self will thank you.
Be kind to every single person you meet.
The world is a small town. Be nice. I know it seems like sometimes we live in a bubble, but we are all more connected than we realize at the time. Smile at the person walking down the same empty hallway as you. Greet the crossing guard in the mornings. Say “thank you” to the secretary holding open the office door. Every single day, you are leaving behind a legacy. It is up to you and only you what legacy you will leave when you go. Ask yourself how you want to be remembered.
Never stop reading, writing, or learning.
I know what you’re thinking, of course she had to say something about reading. Well, duh, of course your English teacher is going to mention reading, and writing, and learning. But what I want you to do is study the things that you are passionate about. There is so much out there for you to learn that you should never deprive yourself of a little more knowledge. Find whatever it is that sparks your soul, and do everything in your power to learn more and more of it. It will make you a well-rounded and well-read individual, and the world always needs more of those.
Find one adult that you trust.
Some of you may already have this person. A parent. A friend’s parent. A coach. A relative. I know that for some things, you will turn to your friend first. Friends are great! But the problem with teenagers is that they haven’t yet lived through so many of the problems that they face. While you may not think that an adult can understand, I promise you that there is at least one that has lived through whatever it is that is troubling you. Our teenage years are ingrained in our minds as these years will also be for you one day. Confide in us, question us, and trust us.
The moments that you are about to live through will only happen once. Sure, you might win more than one playoff game or get on the Honor Roll a few times. But you will never sing that solo in the same exact way, and the discussion in your US History class will never play out that same way again. Put down your phone and live in the moment. Take it all in while it is in front of you. I know it seems like you will remember these days forever, but some of the little details always slip out somewhere along the way. At the end of the day, you are the authors of the stories that you will take with you to college and into adulthood. Make them interesting.
As the year closes out, I want to remind you that while I may be the teacher, the one who is instructing you and guiding you, I can honestly say that I learned as much from each of you as I hope that you have learned from me. I hope that you feel appreciated and proud of all of your accomplishments this year. I hope that you choose to always focus on the good. I know that your futures are bright, and I am excited to hear about the path every one of you chooses to explore if you ever should find your way back here to visit.