Before I shared my senior photo (how it helps you cope with this pandemic I'm not sure but it's entertaining collective nostalgia for sure young adult senior), this writing came to me. For you dear stranger, and also as a love letter to those who enriched my life when I was that girl in the photo above (I didn't wear that much make-up daily and thank goodness my friend Rhea styled me before this photo shoot as the pictures weren't cheap and I thought I should put more of an effort than my usual jeans and t-shirts).
Feel whatever you need to feel you are missing. Grieve. And then, hold onto all the people and learning that fed your soul and helped you in your path.
Looking back on my senior year of high school, I regret in many ways not scheduling courses so I could graduate earlier. That's the first thought. I wanted to be at college, noses in books and lounging under old oak trees on a beautiful campus that saw four seasons. My parents were some of the first from their families to break into the middle class and this afforded great privilege, access to decent schools and all the other privileges being a white female growing up in Virginia afforded in 1998. I tried to be conscious even then of privilege, and to choose a path that would bring some good and equity to the world. My idealism then and my idealism now, still connected.
Ponder privilege. In that pondering, how can this shape your future?
My mother died suddenly the second week of my junior year of high school, so senior year was still a mound of anxiety attacks and depression. Some teachers looked after me, treated me like a human and afforded me respect, others would belittle students or fall to the trappings of bitterness or institutional inertia. Many days I felt we were in a weird teen daycare. All this energy, hope, excitement to work and do good, yet I felt held back because most culture said life didn't start till the end of high school. There was so much to see and do.
This pandemic has encouraged me to reach out to those I love so dearly in the world. To let them be seen and reminded how much it meant to me to share the journey of growing into ourselves together. We saw cruelty and kindness, inertia and the very best of humor. In the entire universe, we were brought together in the same building much of the year and given both helpful and soul-crushing programming.
Education and access to resources was such a gift, and I hope to not denigrate or trash that gift. I also found that many tropes were imposed that took us away from our authentic selves. Expensive clothing and material culture to fit into tribes that were often contrived out of habit not need often upheld hierarchy while crushed many others' spirits. I took refuge in learning, books, and a rebellious spirit to study for life beyond being capsized into a trope: the high school teenager. It rarely felt comfortable, a wet suit that you could never quite get out of fast enough.
My heart holds onto the phenomenal few friends that brought me immense joy and laughs. Helped wipe away tears, especially the ones that grieved death, and the friends that cheered me on as I wrote irreverent poetry or blasted the conformity imposed upon me by a negative teacher. Tony- you laughed as I dumped quarters out to buy movie tickets for our escapist movie marathons! You shared a forever love of books and film, art to feed our spirits. Amy- you drove the getaway car often before I got my driver's license, introduced me to music that gave my turbulence a soundtrack, and saved my life several times. Andrea-you wrote beautiful notes and told me all the truth I would need, laughing with me and building a life we have shared as sisters ever since. Kyle-you were my little brother who rode along in the car and reminded me of playing in creeks and being a kid. Courtney, we enjoyed fries after school and had quite the adventures in theater class.
I had profound teachers who cheered me on, shared the best of books, and inspired me to continue along my path. These are the ones I cradle close. The teachers who tried to break my spirit and put down my individualism- well, you should have found another career path bitter people.
You may grieve your prom night lost to this epidemic. I had an enchanted date with two friends, my five dollar thrift store dress, and danced with each of my guy friends all night. While it was fun, I rebelled against the cost and the toxic expectations that night often signifies and owned what I wanted from it. Perhaps you will grieve the loss of this. Perhaps you can take that money and create authentic memories with select friends once this pandemic moves along.
Perhaps the disruption of your learning is taking its toll. I grieve for you! May you find a new path or access to other teachings and resources. May this be a short gap, not a long one. A pause. A reflection.
Feel whatever you need to feel. Process. Then, I hope you can hold onto the authentic memories you created with real humans. I wish you to stare into the moon and find more of the self you seek in this prime of youth, and keep creating the you that is shaped and being shaped in this moment. I hope that the very best will be in front of you and the past you carry is one that serves you and reminds you how to take the very best, and leave all else behind.
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