Dear Class of 2020,

I recently picked up my cap and gown from my soon-to-be alma mater. I went through the roundabout, seeing faces that I used to see everyday when things were normal. The faculty handed me my ceremonial dress — for what ceremony, I’m still not sure — and congratulated me. It was at that moment it hit me: I’m not graduating. Not really, at least.

I’m not sure if you can relate, but ever since the lockdown began, people have been telling me how sorry they feel for me and asking if I’m OK with not getting a proper graduation. My response again and again has been, “It’s really OK! As long as I get my diploma, I’m happy!” But I now realize that’s not the truth. I am upset! And don’t I have every right to be? It feels like I’ve been working for my whole life toward this one moment of pure recognition, a moment that now I’ll be unable to experience.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been much into the “social hierarchy” of high school. If anything, I’m more of an observer. The one that sees everything but says little; it works for me. In my experience, school is a place to learn, not to socialize. It’s now, in this strange time, that I find myself reminiscing about all of the observations I’ve made over the years, and instead of putting the judgement on my peers that I normally do, I find myself feeling remorseful for them, too.

Not to get all “Breakfast Club”-ish on you, but how can I not feel sorry for the jocks, the princesses and the nerds? They’re missing out on their moment of pure recognition, too. And don’t we all deserve that acknowledgement? If not for the actual academic merit, don’t we deserve recognition for just making it through the jungle that we call high school? Through the insecurities, the bullying, the pressures — oh, the pressures! The pressures of how to dress and how to act and how to talk. In my humble opinion, surviving the pressure of “fitting in” in a high school setting is reason enough for high praise and applause.

And yet, the universe has a different plan for us. Instead of the traditional moment we had wished for (you know, the one where our name is called and we put that tassel from one side to the other and the whole audience applauds), we’re left with postponement letters, links to virtual graduations or maybe, if we’re really lucky, a drive-thru ceremony. I know it sounds as though I’m bitter, but it’s probably only because I am. Why me? Why us? Why did the global pandemic have to hit this year, of all the years?

I know complaining won’t solve anything, but, dear peer, maybe we should complain anyway. We should acknowledge how frustrating this is, because it really is frustrating. I know this short letter probably won’t provide as much solace as I hope it will, but maybe what will is remembering the good things. So, I encourage you to remember the Friday night football games, every school dance you were able to experience and the corny (yet rather uplifting) quotes that line the halls of all high schools. I encourage you to remember the first time you ever walked into the building and the favorite memories that it left you with. Essentially, I encourage you to remember the things we got to experience, rather than the anticipated memories we didn’t. 

Whoever and wherever you are, I’m proud of you and I know you will do great things. 

Congratulations, graduate!

Theadora Soter

Skyline High School Class of 2020