Words by Gayle Dy
First of all, congratulations. You did it; we did it. I’d like to begin by letting you know that I see you. I see all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve been shedding for the last five to six years of your life. I see all your sleepless nights and early mornings trying to fight back the fatigue in your system. I see all the times you’ve cried alone at night in your room, none of which you’ve ever told a single soul about. But most of all, I see all the times you wanted so badly to give up. To close your eyes and never open them again—and I want you to know that I see you. Because I’ve been there, too.
I want you to know that I know what it’s like—to have people underestimating your burdens just because you’re still young, or have them look down on your chosen career track. I know what it’s like to be misunderstood. To be lonely. To be hurt. To be betrayed. So badly that it changes you more than you realize. I know what it’s like to doubt yourself. Over and over. To the point that you have to get validation from other people because you just don’t know how to give yourself that. I know what it’s like to hate yourself. To wish to be someone else. To feel sad and tired for no reason at all. To lose sight of who you are, until eventually, you’ve let yourself go.
I know what all of it is like. And I want you to know that you are not alone.
With graduation just around the corner for me, I can say with complete and utter confidence that high school is not easy. Studying for multiple tests in one day is not easy. Drowning in piles of homework is not easy. Being bullied is not easy. Being pressured is not easy. Failing is not easy. Speaking up is not easy. Bottling up your emotions is not easy. Trying to stay strong is not easy. Finding yourself is not easy. Being yourself is not easy. Finding true friends is not easy. Being a friend is not always easy.
None of it is easy.
But you did it.
And just like in any war, nobody ever leaves the battlefield untouched. And with high school, we all emerge victoriously, but with a few or more scars. And the thing I’ve learned about scars is that the best way to heal them is simply to let them be and let them be a part of you, for these scars are nothing to be ashamed of. Persevering is nothing to be ashamed of, so wear them proudly on your skin. Let them be a reminder of all the battles you have braved and won, of how much you have grown since then. And remember to be thankful for those difficult days because those days are what made you realize that you could go through something like that, and still survive. Finally, congratulate yourself for making it; you couldn’t have done it without you.
High school may be over, but fortunately, the memories left behind (both good and bad) get to stay with us forever. As we move on to the next chapter of our lives, may we take these memories with us and look back at them every once in a while, with fondness and gratitude.
To the new high school graduate, I pray for your next journey—whatever it may be. I hope that it’s exactly what you wanted. I hope that it brings you happiness and fulfillment, passion and determination. If not, then let this be a sign for you to do something about it. To the next generation of world-changers, we are on our way. And I don’t know about you, but I have very high hopes for all of us. Let’s all meet each other at the top, okay?
With love and regards,
Your fellow high school graduate