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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020 8 months ago

Legacy Class of 2020: United through adversity

When someone asks — “What makes the Class of 2020 unique?” — this virus, while part of our story, won’t be what sets us apart.

By Brody Thalmann

One thing central to nearly every culture on earth is tradition. It is a very interesting aspect of humanity; after all, it seems to go against the ever-changing nature of life, and it (conceptually, at least) seems to stand in direct conflict with the innovation of the human spirit. Despite this, it seems tradition has stayed with us throughout the years, and for good reason. Tradition allows us to connect with both our past and those who came before us. 

Unfortunately, with how the world is right now, most of our traditions are being put on hold, which is something many of us thought would never happen. Sports seasons have been either cut short or canceled, schools have been moved online, and many of us rarely leave the house. If you would have told me last year that for (probably) the first time in American history, churches would not meet for Easter service this Easter, I would have laughed in your face. While I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do for my 18th birthday, staying all day inside finishing my homework for the week was definitely not an option I was considering. With life turned upside-down, it has been hard for many of us, because we can no longer look to many of these activities and traditions for a sense of normalcy.

These broken traditions include the traditions we practice as high school students, specifically as seniors. This year, we as the Class of 2020 didn’t get a prom with its cliché theme and pricey tickets. And as much as some of us complained, it felt strange not having one. Our senior walkouts, which are always events to look forward to, have been canceled until next year, when it will be time for the Class of 2021 to walk out of the school one last time. Had you told me that on the last day before Spring Break that my walk from my locker to the pavilion to get my sister would be the closest thing I would get to a Senior Walkout, I would have appreciated it more. Fun events such as Grad Bash and the senior trip have been replaced with quarantine and sappy corporate commercials which always start with some variant of the phrase, “Even though we are social distancing, we are all still in this together.” 

Many athletes have lost their senior season. I was looking forward to our school’s now-canceled sports banquet, which honors the school’s varsity athletes. Finally, it has been difficult knowing that arguably the biggest and most important high school tradition — graduation — has been put on the chopping block. I am lucky to go to a school where they have figured out a way to allow us to walk across the stage (a sort-of drive-thru graduation), but many seniors in the Class of 2020 have had their graduations delayed, moved online or just canceled. 

It’s easy to look at our current situation and say the pile of broken traditions is what makes the Class of 2020 unique. And while that is true, that isn’t the end of the story. We haven’t been able to participate in many traditions that our parents and grandparents partook in, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stay connected. This hardship has done something that none of our traditions could completely do. It has united us, the Class of 2020, in a way no other class has been united before. All of us, regardless of the size of our school, the groups we belong to or where we stand in the class rankings, have all gone through this together. ... And in the future, when we look back on our senior year, we will know we, as a united class, made sacrifices to ensure the seniors of the upcoming years wouldn’t have to lose the traditions we did.

So when someone asks — “What makes the Class of 2020 unique?” — this virus, while part of our story, won’t be what sets us apart. What sets us apart is the unity and camaraderie we built out of the ashes of our broken traditions. 

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