Dear High School Seniors,
You’ve been on my heart. I was in a similar situation during my senior year of high school and find myself in somewhat of a similar situation now as my final semester of law school has moved online and graduation postponed. I just want to offer a word of hope and encouragement for you in what I know is a really difficult time.
For some background, I was in a bad car accident mid-April of my senior year of high school. Suddenly and without warning the rest of my senior year was taken from me. The things I was so looking forward to like prom, senior ditch day, leading cheer tryouts, hanging out with friends, my senior trip to Cancun, even just being in class with my friends—those things were suddenly gone and I didn’t know how to cope.
It felt surreal at first, like a bad joke. I kept telling myself things would be back to normal in no time, ignoring the six-month recovery timeframe my doctors warned me about. Next, I moved from denial to sheer anger as the reality of how much I’d be forced to miss out on set in. It felt like I was being deprived of what should have been the time of my life; that we were just getting to the fun part of senior year and now it was being cruelly withheld. I know you’re probably feeling something similar right now; it really sucks and it isn’t fair. I’m not going to sugar coat that for you.
But sitting here on the other side, I can also tell you that while the moments you’re missing out on feel like everything right now,, I can promise you that your life is not going to be any less beautiful and full. You’ll head off to college or out into the working world and make new memories. You’ll go to parties and dances, play sports again, and go on fun spring break trips. You’ll have new highlight-reel moments, new heartbreaks, and new memories. They won’t be won’t be the same, but they’ll still be good. I promise you have not missed out on the time of your life.
I look back at the end of my senior year with a just twinge of sadness, but mostly, I can now smile and kind of laugh at how I got through it and found the humor and good in it. For example, even though going to the actual prom wasn’t an option for me I still put on my prom dress, did full hair & makeup, and took pics (crutches and all). I’d recommend it!! Never waste a perfectly good prom dress. I ended up watching a movie with my parents that night and can now laugh that that was my “wild” prom night. It’s still a good memory and I love looking back at those photos.
I also look back at that time and see some of the sweetest growth. With all the distractions in my life gone, it forced me to do some soul-searching. I figured out that this was hitting me so hard because I had started to place my identity in things that could be taken from me: sports, events, time with friends, my independence. Through some very honest, often angry conversations with God, I started to find peace and re-root my identity in the one thing that cannot be shaken. And I now look back at that time as one of the most important seasons of growth and transformation in my life. I’m not thankful for the way it had to happen, but I’m so thankful for a God who is unwaveringly good and who uses all things for good, who brings light out of what was meant for darkness. I don’t know what this season will look like for you, but I pray that you’ll come out of this strengthened, with renewed faith, and more prepared for the bright future ahead of you.
And you all have something I didn’t in these unfamiliar waters, which is people who are in the boat with you. People who know exactly what you’re going through and can cry and laugh at the craziness of it all with you. Lean on each other (not literally because social distancing), but be honest with each other when you’re struggling, encourage each other when you can, and find the humor in it whenever possible.
Trust me or not (17-year-old me would have doubted advice too) but the anger, sadness, and frustration you’re feeling now will fade. There are so many wonderful days ahead of you and I’m so excited to see new adventures you’ll step out into this fall. You’re taking a truly difficult season of life and making the best of it—cultivating grace & grit that you’ll carry throughout the rest of your lives. I’m really proud of you!
You in 7 years