An open letter to the class of 2016

An open letter to the class of 2016

Fatima Elfakahany, Opinions editor

Dear Class of 2016:

I have a feeling many of you will roll your eyes at me once this ends (and those who dislike me will dislike me more), but I cannot find it in myself to care. I mean, now or never, right? So yeah, this is going to be extremely cheesy and sickeningly sweet, but you know what? I don’t care, because we’re graduating.

It’s here, it’s time. We don’t have months or weeks left. It’s days now. Less than a week. Mere hours. Four years gaining knowledge of the school, four years cultivating a garden of relationships. And we’re leaving. Just like that. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real, you know? Sometimes it feels like we’re just going on summer break, nothing new, nothing out of the ordinary. It feels like we’re still kids, groaning over the prospect of summer work, dreading that first day of a new year of high school. Those are over now, though. Our next first day of school will be the first day of college.

It’s exciting, in a way, but terrifying in another. Exciting because if life is a hallway of possibility, then we’re teetering at the edge of an unfinished wing, and we have the tools to build what we want—anything we want—but we’re all going to take different pathways. That’s what makes it terrifying, see, what makes me scared. Because after this high school ceases to be an experience and begins to exist as an idea.

In high school, there is a set routine and established rules. Maybe not rules we all like, but rules nonetheless. In high school, there is rarely an unpredictable incident. Over the course of four years, our friends, our classmates, our teachers, rarely leave. We are surrounded by familiar faces. In high school we are still largely not responsible for our own lives.

Tomorrow is a beginning, but that doesn’t have to be scary. Only with beginnings can we start anew, and then we are free.”

— Fatima Elfakahany

But all that changes now. We’ve all heard it before, but high school isn’t real life. College is more real than high school, and life is more real than college. In college or in the job force, whichever way we go, life is unpredictable. Every year is new. An established routine is hard to come by, especially since we must establish it ourselves.  Besides the laws that govern society, there are no rules. And people will abandon us. We will not always be surrounded by those we want to in our classes or our jobs. People will come and go, taking pieces of us with them. We will experience abandonment; it is inevitable.

More than all that, we are now responsible for ourselves. We are adults now, and we receive all the responsibility that come with it. Our parents cannot talk to our professors and bosses; we must do that ourselves. Eventually they will stop scheduling appointments at the doctor and dentist; we must schedule them ourselves. And one day we will have to pay our bills. We will have to live alone. Adolescence is over and adulthood has begun.

This is an end, no doubt. This is the end of the end of the chapter; tomorrow a new one begins. And it is sad for many of us. Endings are rarely cheerful because then the vast space of possibilities stretch before us. Tomorrow is a beginning, but that doesn’t have to be scary. Only with beginnings can we start anew, and then we are free. We can do anything. Achieve anything. We have endless time ahead of us. We’re seventeen, eighteen, and we can do absolutely anything. We choose what steps we take next. We are the masters of our fates, the controllers of our destiny. This is our life. We live it how we choose. So yes, this is the dusk, and we can mourn and reminisce as a spidery explosion of colors bursts across the horizon, but tomorrow is the dawn. Let us welcome the new pink and orange and red of our futures. Let us make the most of it.

I do not know everyone in my graduating class. I do not know all of your names or even all of your faces. I doubt anyone does. But, at the risk of sounding sappy and cliché, we are all connected, connected by a single experience, an experience about to end. We did not share all the same classes or the same teachers or the same classmates, we did not share the same moments, but we all walked the halls of North Cobb. Remember Snowpocalypse our sophomore year? Remember those countless football, baseball, lacrosse, soccer games? Remember the catchphrases of each year’s senior president and vice president echoing in the rooms? Remember when the girls’ volleyball team won the state championship? Remember being called in the theater to discuss something or other, and the relief at just being able to escape class for a few blessed moments? Remember the fire and tornado drills, the code red, the finals and AP exams?

Yes, we’re connected. We’ve experienced similar things. We all interacted with someone from our school. More importantly, we all went to the same school. We are connected, all of us. Invisible strands of toothfloss thin string connect us all. So I may not know you all, but that’s okay. I will still miss you.

I will not lie and say I will miss high school. I will not miss the work or the stress or the standardized tests. But what I will miss, above all else, are the people. The people, who are the reason I cannot regret high school and choosing to come to this school. I will miss the teachers and the counselors and the janitorial staff. I will miss my classmates. I will miss my friends. I will miss you all, because you all are the reason that a water balloon full of pride bursts within me whenever I see a success, whenever I hear of something we’ve done. It spills over, it does—think about those experiences. When you’ve seen someone do something, big or small. I am so, so proud of us all, and I will miss you. And I know maybe many of you have no intention of coming to the reunions, but I do hope to see you all again.

Whenever I see one of your accomplishments, I will be proud. I will turn to the person next to me, a Cheshire grin splitting my face in two, and I will say, “I went to high school with them.” It is your success, yours purely and truly. But a ray of your sunshine can warm all others, and I’ll still be proud. I wish you all the best in life. I hope and wish galaxies for us all. We deserve nothing less.

Infinity stretches before us. Let us not get drunk on its freedom. Let us remember to cherish our moments, to grasp each opportunity that floats by. Remember that happily ever after can only come from within. Remember that if you were nothing without it, you won’t be something with it. Remember that all things, good or bad, must come to an end. Remember that people and moments were meant to drift away, leaving only memories in its place. Remember that a moment is precious because it is fleeting. Remember each lesson carved into our skins, each memory that makes us who we are.

I’m going to miss the comfort of high school. I’m going to miss the people in my classes and the people I pass by in the hallways and the people I see only occasionally. It feels like an end, it does, and in a way it is, but it’s also not. We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, and all the possibilities in the world await us. We’re never all going to be in the same place again; many of us are even leaving Georgia. But it’s not too late for anything, remember that. It’s not too late to change your mind. It’s not too late to mend a relationship. It’s not too late to have a spontaneous road trip, or fill your bucket list. It’s never too late. Remember how young we are. Remember that we can do whatever we want to do. This is our time, so let’s celebrate it.

Congratulations, Class of 2016, we made it. We have ended this race together, and tomorrow a new one begins. Let us sprint as if we will sprout wings. Let us fly towards the sun. Let us soar toward the mountains ahead of us. Happy climbing, North Cobb—and good luck.