Do you know the scene in Gilmore Girls where Jess calls Rory after her graduation, after he’s run away and doesn’t show up, and he doesn’t talk or tell her that it’s him because he’s scared, so instead she rants to him and says she’s done? She says she’s going to Yale and she’s not going to pine and (this is part that really gets me) she says, “I think I may have loved you, but I just need to let it go… I hope you’re good. I want you to be good.” And then she hangs up. It shreds me to pieces every time I think about it.
I am forever obsessed with what I don’t have. Clothing always looks more alluring on the model- if I really wanted to love it I would have left it in my cart, so I could’ve stayed imagining how cute it could be instead of being let down by its actual arrival in the mail. I live for untapped potential, for the stories that never ended and the people I never actually got to know. I exist in a tiny box of hopes and untouched dreams, romance novels and movies that cut off before we see the couple grow old together.
I hope to someday accept that my life is better than my impossible expectations, that crying and being heartbroken is better than forever yearning, because it’s real. Goodbyes are meant to happen, and endings are the only way we learn.
I am trying to regain some of my lost creativity. Lately I’ve been feeling like a shell of myself, and it’s probably because I gave so much of my insides away. Most of my friends leave for college next week. I still have 40 days to go; I got my first class assignment yesterday (College 101!), and it doesn’t feel real at all. I’m so excited, but I feel like I won’t ever get there. Underqualified, floundering, somehow less than everything I built myself up to be in my essays. It takes genuine effort to convince myself I deserve to go to college, and that I’m going to have fun when I get there.
I’ve realized that friendship is a two-way street, and that you have to put in effort to make them last. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you notice that you haven’t talked to someone in weeks, and it’s worse when you accept that you haven’t missed them. Worse still are the people you really do miss, who do not miss you at all. That’s what I meant about giving my insides away. I’ve always been this way: when I love something, I love it really really hard, body and soul. It’s how I’ve gotten this far and learned this much, but it’s also what leaves me feeling like half of a person when I wake up in the morning.
High school feels very far away; I can’t imagine ever going back. I do think I’ll miss the little bits and pieces- definitely the random outbursts in class and the camaraderie during AP week. I already miss the people and the laughter and the memories. But I’m ready to go and meet my future. This little space between is the hardest part. I have too much time to think.
My mom sent me a text message the other day during my last ever work shift at Rite Aid. She said, “Enjoy summer. It is precious moment to enjoy life.” It was probably the cutest thing I’d ever read, and she’s completely right.
There is something very beautiful about the unknown- it draws people together in a common effort to remember. Most of the time, I’m at peace with the present moment. I understand that time doesn’t wait for anyone, that we must keep moving and growing with every sunrise and set. But sometimes, during moments of weakness, I’ll be reminded of something sweet or funny from a couple of months ago. I’ll get quiet and wistful and sit in nostalgia for a second too long, and then I’ll get upset that I can’t go back to feeling that way or being in that very moment ever again. I’ll become afraid that this time next year, I won’t even remember the memory I’m reminiscing on right now.
I’ve never felt as aimless as I do this summer. Like every Long Island July, it’s humid and buggy. People commute to the beach like it’s a nine-to-five job. Ice cream after dinner is practically its own mandatory meal. Some things will never change. Internally, though, I feel this pang of desperation every second of the day, and I know my friends are going through it too. College is a sore subject- no one likes to acknowledge and people start leaving next week. No one knows when the next reunions will be, considering things like flights and vacations and breaks that don’t match up. Our last guarantee is this summer, and it’s dwindling down to its last few promises.
The love and gentleness that I feel these days will be stored for years to come in memories of my last season at home. Movie marathons, bonfires, beach days, morning bagels- the vision of home and the people I love exist in the simple things of life. I’m so grateful to be here, in a finite capsule of sweetness and latent dread. Nothing will ever feel quite like this again, and that’s what makes it so important anyway.
18 Things To Do When You Are Young
Hi guys. Before I start, I would like to thank my parents and my brother. I love you so so much. I’d also like to thank my friends. You guys are family and because of you I am changed for the better. I’m so grateful, I love you, and please promise to take pictures with me when this is over. Okay, are you ready for it?
Good evening students, parents, teachers, administrators, and friends. Today is a good day. I was pretty nervous to deliver a speech in front of all of you, but then I remembered that I’ve been running my mouth in class for the past 13 years, so you’re probably used to this already. I would still like to say that I’m incredibly honored and humbled to be up here today and to have the chance to address the Class of 2022 all together, one last time.
A quick disclaimer: I’m 17 years old, I’m afraid of ketchup, and I still can’t drive, so please take everything I’m about to say with a grain of salt.
My friends from AP Lit could tell you that I had a really rough time coming up with what to say for this. I think what made it so difficult is that the 357 of us are about to diverge paths, and there’s nothing I can say with certainty that will apply to all of us, except for the fact that we’re moving on. It’s scary.
High school, as I’m sure you’re all aware, was not perfect. Sometimes, it sucked. But from those hard times, I think there is something to gain, and I believe that you should take what you need from these past four years to shape your future. And maybe that isn’t physics or math or history. It probably isn’t. Maybe it’s lessons like laughing off the small stuff and finding balance between work and play. When I think back on my time at Huntington, I know I studied a lot, but what I really remember are the moments I couldn’t have planned for.
The kickball tournament in my junior gym class. Stealing a Christmas tree on a long run in January and hiding it in the girl’s track locker room. The many, many insightful and off-topic conversations I had with friends in class when we were supposed to be focusing on work.
Living in the now, appreciating the little things, that is what eventually shapes your character and your mindset. It’s hard to know that the future is out of your control, but the present is entirely yours, so take advantage of that, and soak it all in.
As some of you might know, during my junior year I started asking a question on The Dispatch’s Instagram every Wednesday. I’m two days late, but I have one last question for all of you: What now? I don’t have the answer, but I have some thoughts.
If we could see our entire lives from start to finish, I think most of us would be shocked. You could be a completely different person ten years from now than what you’re expecting at this moment, and that’s a wonderful thing to think about. You’re going to change and grow in ways that you could never imagine, and the best advice I can give is to embrace that journey every step of the way. But today, right now, we’re graduating high school, so let’s just focus on that.
I feel really lucky to have been born around the same time and to have ended up in the same place, at Huntington, with all of you. Among this class are the funniest, kindest, brightest, weirdest, most beautiful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Every single one of you is capable of greatness, and I encourage you to strive for happiness, whatever that means to you. Attack life with voracity, which I now know how to spell. Take risks. Be brave. Be kind.
The word valedictorian comes from the Latin root meaning goodbye. But I like the Chinese word for goodbye a lot better. It’s zai-jian, which means “we’ll meet again.” So until then, go make big moves and tell me about them when I see you next.
Finally, I have a Taylor Swift quote for all of you, because it really wouldn’t be me without one. “Long live the walls we crashed through, I had the time of my life with you.”
Congratulations Class of 2022. It’s been real. It’s been fun. And it’s about to get real fun. Thank you all.
One thing I know to be true about my family is that we overvalue the people we meet over the course of our lives. At my 8th grade graduation ceremony, my dad approached one of my classmate’s parents because he remembered that we had attended preschool together. He went up to Maggie’s dad as if they were old friends, but it was clear to me that the other man didn’t recognize my father at all. It’s only one example, but that moment made me realize how similar I am to my dad- how every person I’ve ever met has mattered deeply to my timeline, when it’s quite possible I mean nothing to them.
In this world of hyperconnectivity, I’ll be able to see what happens to my peers after high school; I haven’t decided if that’s a good or bad thing. It’ll quench my curiosity, but it’ll also keep me tied to the people and memories of my past. I know that I’ll probably only keep in touch with my closest friends, so what’s the point of continuing to follow everyone else? Is it going to hurt when I see that the boy I had a crush on my senior year posted a picture his new college girlfriend? Am I supposed to care that our paths won’t ever merge again? I don’t know.
I’m afraid of loving people too much and being forgotten. I know I try too hard, I know I regret it later. It just feels fuzzy in the meantime.
There’s a finality in everything I do now. This is the last quarter of high school. This is the last day before spring break. This is the last time I go here, I do this. And it’s weird to know there will be a day where I won’t remember what this feels like.
Senior year tastes like iced coffee from the bagel store and Valentine’s Day Sweet Tarts. It sounds like uncontrollable laughter layered with crying and the sound of screaming along to Traitor by Olivia Rodrigo. It looks like late-night drives, mid-day naps, sitting in class and bearing the heavy weight of what-ifs. And it presses on me, willing me to preserve the memories in a jar before they’re gone.
In less than six months, I’ll be in California with a bunch of strangers and Stanford won’t just be a pipe dream or an acceptance letter or the letters in my Instagram bio. It will be real life, beneath my feet, mine for the taking. I’m not fully ready to become the college girl I spent all of high school crafting in my mind; I always imagined myself as cool and enigmatic, fashionable and down-to-earth, loved by all, my high school self but better and prettier. As I get closer and closer to graduation, though, I’ve started to like my current self more and more. I am pretty and kind and funny and smart, and maybe we don’t transform as soon as we head off to college. Maybe growth isn’t discarding your past self, but adding onto an already worthy foundation.
I still need a prom date and to write my graduation speech. The year is far from over. But I can feel the change creeping in. I’m not scared through- life is about living. I’m soaking it in.
I think, for the most part, in every way that matters, I am my mother’s child. I always laugh at the wrong time, uncontrollably, a mix between a bark and a wheeze. I love to gossip about meaningless things, to shop for pretty dresses, to take pictures of my food before I eat it. I am constantly running, chasing success and biting my nails. I have the same hot temper, the same tendency to say things I don’t mean and to hold in a feeling until it bursts. I have the same self-consciousness, the same slow-rising hatred of things about me that I can’t change.
In the same way, I’m just like my dad. I love to read and to research tiny questions until I know everything there is to know about a topic no one else cares about. I love movies and music and football and hikes. I hate the sound of arguments and could happily sit alone in silence for hours. I don’t know how to apologize. I don’t know how to stop arguing. No one really knows me.
And even so, I am my own person. I am an extrovert. I’m not very good at math. I like to write and learn languages and buy silly things just for fun. I procrastinate. I love warm weather and summer nights. I am excited for my future and the person I’ll become. Especially once I finish the physics homework I’ve been putting off.
Apples and peanut butter are a mainstay in my life. They’ve been breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. When everything around me was changing, apples and peanut butter were how they’d always been, and that was sanctuary in the form of a snack. I like gala, fuji, and honeycrisp the best. Secretly, I prefer creamy natural peanut butter, but my dad and brother only accept Skippy extra crunchy, so I eat that too. I rinse my apple under warm water and cut it into eighths. I cut the core off each piece and toss those slivers into the wastebasket- I used to toss them out the window during childhood summers, but Baba told me that wasn’t how composting worked. I warm up a spoonful of peanut butter in the microwave for 25 seconds, because at 20 it isn’t melted all the way and at 30 it starts to burn. I set my apple on a plate and carry it out with my bowl of peanut butter and a spoon. Sometimes I eat outside in the backyard, but usually I sit at the dinner table. If Baba or Terry or Mama when she’s home sits with me, we chat for a bit, but nine times out of ten it’s just me and my food. I like the clash of textures matched with the harmony of flavors: salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy, juice coating my lips before I lick it off. Through fights and slumps and the very best and worst of my days, I can recall having an apple with peanut butter, and at least I know there’s comfort in the things that stay.
She had the face of a wax model made for someone else, the second draft that was almost there but missing something crucial. Was it emotion? Imperfection? She had the face of something otherworldly, one that you couldn’t fault but couldn’t love, no matter how long you looked.
The sky was overcast as she made her way down to the mailbox. It looked like it should’ve been humid and warm, but it was cold: the aesthetics of June set in the reality of a Long Island February. She had grown up in this weather, having stomped and galloped and trudged on this same path to the mailbox every day for the better half of seventeen years. She supposed it felt different today because she knew she wasn’t coming back tomorrow. Sure, there was winter break and next summer and next year’s winter break, but that was different. This was only home for a few more hours.
All her life, she had blamed her unloveable face on the eyes that perceived it, on the size of her hometown and the fact that the boys here had colorblindness to anything that wasn’t blonde or blue. She had worked herself to the bone, excelling in every sector that wasn’t romantic attention, all with the steadfast conviction that it would pay off, that someday she would feel worthy. But standing at the mailbox, staring into its emptiness, she felt the first trickle of doubt that the world was small, that the same eyes existed in every face, and that hers would always only look that way. It was Sunday. She was leaving tomorrow.