Tuesday, March 31, 2020

High School, Past and Present

I've been thinking about high school seniors this week. I have a couple of friends who kids are due to graduate this spring, and they don't know quite what's going to happen.

There is so much in your senior year of high school that matters to you then. It doesn't matter if later in life, you don't care... for a lot of kids, those moments are what matters to you completely right now.

Prom, honors night, graduation... not for every kid, but for a lot, those are really important events. And once they are gone, they aren't coming back. You can't send kids off to college this fall, and then NEXT spring have them back for graduation. They miss out permanently.

We have to be ok with those kids being sad, mad, devastated and angry. We can expect them to behave appropriately while having feelings (e.g. no hitting), but we have to let them have their feelings and not try to moderate them for them, excuse them, or dismiss them with "none of it really matters," or "you aren't going to see any of those people in the future anyway."  

Do you remember being 17 or 18? IT MATTERED.

All of it. And those moments with friends were incredibly important to us. Now that we're adults, we can also know that friend groups and high school experiences - whatever they are - are also an important part of development. It's how children differentiate from their parents, learn how to figure out who they are and who they want to be and start to learn how to live on their own. I'm not saying we kick out high schoolers and let them roam in the wild! We know that the brain isn't fully developed until your 20's. But, high school is an important part of development and, as my friend and child development author Dr. Dave Walsh says "experience wires the brain." 

Just before the world started to end, I received a "Save the Date" in the mail for a wedding back in Detroit this fall. One of my friends from high school is getting married. We were part of the same theatre group back then - a crazy gang of good kids who loved the stage and loved each other. We've kept in touch since then - and slightly better since the advent of social media, but we aren't necessarily really "close" anymore. When I got the invite, I wrote to him and said "I'm so honored -we would not have assumed to be included, and so kind of you to send the card!" He wrote back immediately, "Of course you are included! I'm hoping to have a nice group of high school pals there -you all shaped who I am today!"

And the same is true back. My high school friends - the theatre crew, my teammates on the cross-country and track teams, the kids I competed with in my honors classes - all of them, helped to shape and mold me during those formative years. It was all important - the daily life together, the events together... and while there are a lot of people I lost touch with over the years, those folks made an indelible impression on me. 

So I bought a ticket back to Detroit for the wedding. And for me, that ticket represents a link between past and present, a way of honoring our collective growing up in honoring the wedding of an old friend. It feels important, especially now.

I hope that someday, high school seniors who won't have the chance this year to sleep over Julia's house after prom, who won't race around a track with Nancy and Beth, who won't play their senior recital with Jess and Bethanie and Angie and Angela, who won't line up in a final Chorus Line with Jason and Tricia and Steve and Emily, who won't cross the stage and receive a diploma with Brandon and Megan and Stephanie and Mike and Ryan and all the others... that they too will still someday look back on their time in school and say "yea, those were my people. We had it different from everyone else, but it was special in its own way." 

And I hope that in the interim, we as the former high-schoolers we are, will extend these kids understanding and grace. 

God bless the class of 2020. 

Love, from a member of the class of 1997.

Added bonus! Check out some pictoral memories from my senior year. Remember, I grew up in a pre-digital age, so these are photographs of prints... have fun!

Cross County Team, Fall 1996
Homecoming, Fall 1996. Our Homecoming was a dress up affair.
Finale of "A Chorus Line," Spring 1997

My friend Emily and I during "A Chorus Line"
We had several photos like this - we thought we
were something!

Theatre Seniors, plus our director's daughter, 1997

Prom, 1997. I have no idea where my date is
these days, and no idea who Stephanie's date was...

Kenny, in the smug look, and I at
Prom, 1997. I have no idea what was going on here.
Professional Prom shot, 1997
How many photos did we have with
"David Roberts photography" stamped on them?

Post Prom sleepover at Julia's, 1997. Her parents were clearly
the coolest to let us all stay over.
Heather, me, Kelly the morning after Prom.
We were so excited we kept our up-do's in...
Last band and orchestra concert of the year, 1997. 

Baccalaureate before graduation
Graduation was held at the Palace of Auburn Hills (now gone)
but Baccalaureate was held at our school.
These kids... we thought we had it all figured out.
To be us again...

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