SENIOR FAREWELL COLUMN: I’m proud to be a ‘Class of 2020’ graduate

Art+by+Jacqueline+Chang.+

Art by Jacqueline Chang.

Michelle Buckley

A high school graduation is an event that every student looks forward to. Turning that tassel from right to left signifies the end of a profound era and the beginning of a new one. 

When I entered high school as a freshman, I was already thinking about my special day. I envisioned myself wearing my cap and gown with comfortable heeled shoes, and my long hair that I took a year to grow out would be done in nice curls. My family would be there to congratulate me on finishing four hard-working years of my life, and I would go home that day feeling successful and accomplished. 

I honestly looked forward to crying tears of joy with my peers and throwing our caps into the air, letting go of the journey that made us the graduates we are. However, I knew I couldn’t look too far into the future, and I had to take one year at a time. I knew that day would come eventually, but I had to put in the effort to get there. 

And so I did. I took honors and Advanced Placement [AP] classes all four years, studied nightly to get the high grades I wanted, joined multiple clubs on campus and became a member of The Accolade, which I consider my greatest achievement. 

Now that I look back on all that I have done, I realized that I have made a name for myself, and my hard work did not go unnoticed. My efforts and motivation to work diligently is evident through receiving four Rotary Top 100 awards, three Lancer Awards, an AP Scholar award, becoming the Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper and being accepted to multiple colleges, including my dream school: Chapman University.  

I put in the time to do my best, and I never once threw in the towel. So when my senior year came around, I could not wait for the activities and events that I deserved to enjoy. Unfortunately, all that I dreamt of was cut short in March.  

The last normal, adventurous day I remember having was prom dress shopping at the Brea Mall with my good friend. I had picked out a blue, strapless dress from Windsor, and we couldn’t wait to take photos at our senior Prom. 

Today, I sometimes look back at group iMessage conversations I had with my friends, and I remember how excited we were to plan everything out, such as where we would take photos before the Prom event, which rides we would go on first during Disneyland’s Grad Nite and which papers we would throw during our paper toss.

It really sucked to sit in my room, alone, look at my calendar and watch all the days I looked forward to passing by. What was even worse was that I daily had to forge a fake smile, log into my classes and hear the pity talks from everyone. I had to keep moving forward, even though doing so felt like throwing myself through a brick wall. 

I can’t give my future children advice on what songs to dance to or not to dance to at Prom. I can’t tell them the highlights of Grad Nite and what they should do when they first get there. I can’t share what walk I strutted to when getting handed my diploma. 

But I can tell them this: Don’t spend time worrying about the future. No one knows what it holds, and things can get canceled, pushed, or destroyed, whether it takes days, weeks or months. Focus on the now. Enjoy each moment to its fullest because when it gets to the point that days start to feel like years, countless memories will resurface and provide comfort. 

Quarantine has given me a lot of time to reflect on the importance of focus in life. I was always so caught up in worrying about the future, that while living in the present, I couldn’t enjoy the time fully. 

By this point, I have come to terms with the fact that I’ll be picking up my diploma from my car, and I’ll be watching a virtual ceremony on YouTube. I won’t get any proper face-to-face goodbyes, and all those events I looked forward to won’t even be memories. 

However, I can say that I’m proud to be a class of 2020 graduate. My senior class is making history, and our situation will be talked about by individuals, read about in history books and taught by intellectuals. 

Surely there will be some jokes made about our class, such as how we may have had a prom on Club Penguin, or how we could have received our diploma as a PDF. But the class of 2020 should always remember that we were the ones to pave the way for these technological advances. We sacrificed our senior year to save the lives of others. 

Although my freshman self didn’t get the graduation or events I had hoped for, I still had an amazing four years at Sunny Hills. I met people I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I partook in events that will always hold a special place in my heart and memory. 

Now I’m off to a brand new start at Chapman University, aiming to achieve a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. As an incoming freshman, I’m already looking forward to getting that degree on my special day. My family will be there to congratulate me…

But I need to put in the effort first. 

I need to take one day at a time and not look to the future.

I need to focus on the now.