Hi again! Your friendly neighborhood tortoise, reporting back for duty. I know you probably didn’t expect to see me again after my rather melodramatic exit back in May of 2019, but I’m back to provide some advice in the self-deprecating and embarrassing way I always do. It’s been a rather wild ride since I’ve last seen you, so sit back, relax and (hopefully) enjoy.
At the beginning of 2020, I wrote myself a letter to read at the end of the year. I’ll spare you the sappy details, but the main point was that I was so excited for everything that I was going to achieve within the next 12 months. I told Emily from 2019 that I was endlessly proud of how she’d come out of her shell and endured hardships (reference my previous eight columns), and that this year would be my time to reap all the benefits of the obstacles she had conquered.
I told myself that this year would be just like a movie — I just didn’t know it would be “Contagion.”
Because suddenly, this ambitious, dreamy plan that I had created vanished in the span of three weeks. My final sports season, my first prom, my last semester of high school, my high school graduation and my jam-packed summer — all canceled. For the first time, I didn’t have a list of things I needed to attend to, or events to look forward to. My Google Calendar went from an overflowing colorful grid to a barren white wasteland.
As I watched event after event canceled by the day, I couldn’t muster up the motivation to find new passions or hobbies that were more indoor-friendly. For years, all I had wanted was to enjoy a single day worrying about absolutely nothing, and now that many of those days have been handed to me, I realized that I never really wanted it in the first place. I thrived off of a busy schedule — of a life filled with innumerable downs, but also countless ups.
One day, in the midst of another crying session (jeez, when is this girl going to stop?), I finally deduced that the reason why I was so sad had less to do with my missing so many traditions I’d looked forward to and more so with my expectation that this year would be a reward for all my efforts throughout high school. I had looked forward to seeing all my work culminate into something tangible, whether that was a great final season of color guard or graduation.
Through all those nights where I was overwhelmed with studying for three tests, color guard practices that made me so tired I fell asleep before I even ate dinner and early mornings when I laid in my bed and wondered whether it was even worth it to go to school that day, I reminded myself to keep pushing. If nothing else, when I attended my final sports banquet, wore my senior ball dress and walked down that graduation aisle, I wouldn’t even think of regretting that I hadn’t lived my best life.
I had no idea that these mounting words of encouragement would manifest as a destructive need for a tangible prize.
But through the past few weeks, I’ve begun to understand that not everything needs to have a dramatic or satisfying closing to have been a worthy experience in my life. Just because I don’t have a senior night doesn’t erase the lifelong friendships and leadership skills I’ve gained from color guard. Just because I don’t have a banquet for El Estoque doesn’t mean I haven’t left a positive trail behind with my writing.
And perhaps most importantly, just because I don’t get to wear that suffocatingly-hot cap and gown as I walk down the graduation aisle and shake Ben Clausnitzer’s hand doesn’t mean that the academic merit, work ethic and personal growth I’ve worked my a** off for wasn’t worth it.
Though my life might seem like a cliffhanger right now, it would’ve been pretty boring if high school had just ended happily ever after. In fact, I’ve taken it as a personal challenge — maybe nothing ended the way that I’d hoped, but that just leaves more curiosity and a hungry desire to learn what happens in the next book.
So with that, I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed my triumphant return, as brief as it is. I’d keep this going on longer, but I guess you’ll just have to wait and see when I’ll be back, if ever. In the meantime, I encourage you to continue working hard for your own sake, and perhaps the next time we cross paths, we’ll be different people again — only time will tell.