We're All In This Together
Class of 2016. It sounds so official, doesn't it? Then again it marks the end of six years of our lives, thirteen years if you include all the years we've spent in school uniforms. For some of us, these six years are only the beginning of life-long friendships. Some of you will be at my wedding. Some of you will be the godparents of my children. On the other hand, some of you will to slowly fade out of my life over the next few years, not because we want it to happen, but because life will get in the way. Some of you, I will never see again after I leave this town.
But all of you have left a mark on me.
Never again will life be this easy, this pretty, this effortless. Never again will I be surrounded by you, my second family, my support system – your houses just down the street or within walking distance of my own. We won’t get our work done while snapchatting at two in the morning together, exhausted but feeling comforted as we type our essays or study for our prelims or sign petitions about how ridiculous that one exam was.
We were never alone here. We couldn't have been, even if we tried. With our houses, homerooms, groups, seat partners, sports teams, squads.These wee groups that made us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest days. We won’t have those next year. We'll have new people to pose beside, new people to be in a ridiculous amount of group-texts with. This scares me. More than finding the right uni or job or spouse – I'm scared of losing this bubble we're in.
Soon you’ll all be taken away from me. Not in an angry way. Just in a this is life kind of way. You’re all going to be pulled in directions different from my own, because we’re all trying to dip our toes into adulthood, and this separation is part of it. We’re not going to live in each others bedrooms anymore, with band posters covering the walls, squad photos in frames on top of our dressers and mismatched furniture sitting happily together – our own little messy, hectic, chaotic, beautiful teenage bedrooms.
Soon we’ll be living in halls of residence or apartments with strangers to call roommates. We'll buy new duvet covers and kitchen appliances and feel as grown up as we've ever allowed ourselves to be. We’ll arrange to meet up for happy hours or Saturday night dinners, or even cross-country weekend visits if we’re separated by that many miles. And it will seem easy at first, fun even. But, like it always does, life will get in the way. The visits will become more rare, the meet-ups more sporadic. We’ll find new friend-families, new routines, new weekend hangouts in our respective cities. We’ll tag each other in Timehops that remind us of who we were, together, when that one photo was taken in that candid moment on that one Friday night that we’ll remember forever. I’ll think of you often when I see these little reminders.
Even if we do remain close, even if we fight to stay in touch and see each other on a regular basis, things are going to change. It seems inevitable that soon we’ll simply be counting on birthday parties and big life announcements to force us to drop what we’re doing so that we can spend a weekend together. But that’s okay. Because as much as we'd sometimes like to, we can’t stay here forever in this little bubble. High school is only the beginning. We have to move on, we have to grow up, we have to learn to live out this friendship under new circumstances, because things are always going to change.
What I will remember as I leave this place is that it will hurt because of you. It will hurt because you brought me such joy, such laughter, and such pure happiness. You taught me things you don’t even know that you taught me. You are part of the reason that I am a different person today than I was six years ago when I started high school.
If we ever come back here, this place is not going to look the same. There will eventually be new buildings, new shops, new restaurants. But most of all, there will be new people. A new energy that we don’t recognise. This town, the place that we know right now will exist only in our minds, it will exist as a memory, a connection, an energy between you and I. These last six years will always be here, between us, no matter what happens.
It's sad because we know that the buildings will stay, the teachers will remain, and the classes will resume without us. We know whenever we return, this familiar place won’t feel so familiar anymore. We’ll go to our favourite lunch table and see a new group of stressed teenage girls recounting their blurry nights over bagels. We’ll enter our old homeroom classroom knowing none of the tracking reports in the pile are for us. We’ll walk through the library and see a new student freaking out about their prelims in our spot. We’ll walk down the path we took twice a day for six years, now crowded with unfamiliar faces and we’ll remember the hot bike guy who we'd see on route at 8.30. We’ll come back to this familiar place that won’t feel so familiar anymore. And suddenly, we'll realise that what we've been hearing all along is true: “these are the best six years of your life.” I think that what makes them so great is that eventually: they end.
But I don’t think we really grasp this concept until we’re forced to somehow say goodbye: to the friends that have become our family, the town that has become our home, and the school that has become both. As much as I'd often be reluctant to admit it, high school has made me someone I'm proud to be. I'm proud of the person I grew to become within these walls, and the achievements I've had as a result of being here. The lessons I've learned.
But let me make one thing clear: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they will be there as we grow up and go to university or college or wherever we end up. We all have regrets about what we did or didn't do during our time here. Of course, there are things we wished we did: studied more, taken different subjects, said yes to the dates we turned down. We’re our own harshest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Procrastinating. Sleeping in too late. Hard as I tried I never made it on time for first period English on Thursdays. I had it at that time for two years. I'm sorry Mrs H, I swear it wasn't personal.
More than once I’ve looked back on my younger self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.
But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they planned to. Nobody did all of their homework or handed in all their essays on time or passed all their unit tests (except maybe the crazy people who won all the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards for ourselves and we’ll probably never live up the ideas we have about our future selves. But that's okay.
When we came to high school there was this sense of possibility. We had six years in front of us, this endless potential to do great things – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we've had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to medical school, or playing for that football team or trying to get the rest of us to join the political party they want to be leader of someday. The rest of us are lost and fumbling, picking subjects we like to study at uni for the next few years in the hope that maybe along the way we'll figure out what we want.
We have to keep reminding ourselves that we're only 17/ 18. Some of us can't legally drink yet, why would we have our lives plans sorted? Like you, I have an incredible journey in front of me. Maybe I'll figure 'it' out in India next year, or during my time at Glasgow when I eventually make it there. Whatever happens, the past six years have been amazing.
We’re all in this together, 2016. Let’s do incredible things.