Love Letter to the Class of 2020 & DMAE

“I wholeheartedly encourage you to boldly and freely live in all your colors…”

Time is nothing if not receding. 

It pulls back, abruptly and remarkably, before we can even recognize its silent departure, leaving us to frantically grapple with what still remains long after it loses us. Time abandons us too easily, but time also startles us into acknowledging what doesn’t abandon us—what ultimately stays loyal. Rather than wandering aimlessly, for now, let’s stay where we are. Let’s recognize what it is that we have chosen to swaddle close to our hearts until the future eventually finds us, as it always unfailingly does.        

Picture this as you would a flashback in a movie scene. The walls of the present crumble and we’re freshmen once again. We are immediately overwhelmed with a massive grade scandal, leaving the administration in utter shambles. We strikingly learn that in a school where the administration opposed us more often than not, we would have to be each other’s most valuable allies. We had entered a severely fractured community, and we immediately understood that we wanted to be the final class to endure it. As a collective, we actively participated in working to restructure an administration that had hardly ever known stability. In our first year, we were granted the first opportunity to derive strength from our solidarity. 

Take 2. Sophomore year. 

Ninth period is permanently removed, as well as a majority of our clubs. As a result of the master schedule being implemented, our individual schedules were absolutely wrecked, littered with AP’s that the guidance counselors prevented us from dropping. The administration seemed entire distances away, and we were once again regarded as an afterthought in a place where we should have been the first. Regardless, we aimed to foster unity amongst ourselves.

We were each other’s most valuable resource, and we held an earnest respect for one another…”

We were each other’s most valuable resource, and we held an earnest respect for one another that always had us rooting for each other’s happy beginnings and endings, such as taking the time to assist each other with schoolwork when the teachers proved unavailable. Even if we may not have always had the power to persist for ourselves, we always had the power to persist for each other.

The camera pans left. Junior year. 

From not having our finalized schedules until just before school started in early September to having to secure AP classes with difficulty, we were in a persistent state of limbo. But, the absence of initiative and direction by the administration ensured that the school was finally belonging to us. Without hesitation, we embraced our influence. Despite being swamped by standardized testing and the ever-looming college admissions process, we chose to guide and advise the underclassmen. Clubs and Student Council expanded. The school made the effort to undermine—unnecessary time allocated to homeroom, shift to total points in Genesis, and teacher vs. student reforms—but we would understand, no longer extending ourselves to just each other, but to those younger than us. We were in a position where we could assist in leading more than just our own life—more than just one life.   

The screen goes black. The final take. It’s senior year and wherever we look, we’re reminded that we’re loving everything into its last. Our four years crumple at our feet as fossils, yet they offer us the reassurance that we’re continuously and safely progressing towards someplace, developing into our most dazzling selves. We were ready to let go after committing to a timeline where we were promised enough time, knowing we were being rewritten into the future tense with our memories—our irreplaceable souvenirs—to cherish and love for as long as we are able.  

Then, just before the lights could switch off and the credits could roll, COVID-19 completely stripped us of a sense of closure—a proper farewell to our most beloved teachers, classmates, and moments: a world we barely claimed as ours these past four years. In belonging to the DMAE community, we have unfairly and unexpectedly lost more than we have loved.  I believe, however, that as DMAE students, we have long outgrown the need for an established ending. I believe it’s a matter of knowing when to forge our own ending in order to begin again.  

In being a part of DMAE’s Class of 2020, we have become especially skilled in this self-reliance from undoubtedly being challenged more than the average student. There was an uneasiness that permeated every beginning—this lingering awareness that a club, faculty member, or principal could swiftly be transformed into a footnote. Permanence was a very temporary word at DMAE, and we became accustomed to this perpetual state of unsettledness. We had to repeatedly muster the spirit to begin again—establishing our own ending to relearn what we knew. As a result, though, we emerged employing a sort of kaleidoscopic thinking, continuously searching for vibrancy in the ever-evolving and shifting DMAE community.   

Throughout my four years at [email protected], I have been continuously inspired by this DMAE-specific strength. I am immensely grateful to have been surrounded by individuals who were never ready to settle. I have observed my peers as they strive to determine each hue of the everyday, developing into their most colorful counterparts. Where others may have perceived our situations as indefinite and indistinct, we recognized its open-endedness—how much promise lay in its uncertainty! We have always viewed DMAE not as what it is, but as what it could be.       

As we graduate in the midst of such disarray I am endlessly optimistic that we will continue viewing the world as what it could be. This power and responsibility to begin again ultimately rests with us—to recognize when it’s necessary to approach what we know in an entirely new way than before. We are inheriting entire generations’ worth of trauma and wreckage that is spilling into the borders of our consciousness. In this world, endings are too expensive and costly. We can’t afford to wait for the endings that the world prepares for us—the unjustifiable endings of innocent lives and the overdue endings to systemic racism, prejudiced institutions, and skewed ideologies.

We must seek beginnings to a more inclusive and equitable reality…. We must unlearn and relearn.”

We must seek beginnings to a more inclusive and equitable reality—just human rights policies, racial equality, political integrity, and the mitigation of climate change—even within the midst of turbulence and uncertainty. We must unlearn and relearn. Have the world move past what it knows. Lift the veil in as many ways as we can.    

If there is any sort of advice that I would want the underclassmen to seize for themselves, it would be to never compromise yourself. Aim to exist as a space of “and”—a sum of all the parts that constitute you—rather than a space of “or.” Even when DMAE poses as your most trying opponent, I wholeheartedly encourage you to boldly and freely live in all your colors—your passions, identities, and quirks—and more valuably, gather the courage to seek out more. You have already made so many strides with the new clubs that you are founding and leading as well as participating in weekly meetings with the administration. Continue engaging in the school with all that you are.

…look how much lies beyond where our feet fall. Look how much promise and potential.”

And for everyone: we are all individually paradoxical—we have the power to simultaneously be the greatest source of strength for ourselves while also being our most testing adversaries. In a world that threatens and excludes, I challenge you to always be the most precious person to yourself. To swaddle your own self close to your hearts. My favorite poet Ocean Vuong exquisitely writes, “The most beautiful part of your body is where it’s headed.” Yes, this world and our own selves are unrelenting and unyielding, but look how much lies beyond where our feet fall. Look how much promise and potential.  

Just as I chose DMAE every September for the past four years, I choose this life—my one and only life—every day for what it could be.