“You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?” – The Breakfast Club
Our senior year of high school the movie “The Breakfast Club” came out. I think we watched it together in the theater at least four times. It’s really a great movie that tells a story of high school, fitting in, friendships, and figuring out who you are. And the soundtrack is great!
I work at a high school now and I think about what it means to be in high school, what the kids are experiencing these days, and how it’s similar and different to my experiences. I guess that put me in the mind of my senior year, of memories, and of saying goodbye.
From a young age I’ve been aware that relationships are temporary and that are liminal moments in which important people may be exiting our lives. Like most people, by middle school I had several best friends who just weren’t really friends anymore, because they moved or simply because we grew in different directions. I noticed the losses at the time and was saddened and at the same time realized it was the way of things.
Now there’s Facebook; it’s relatively easy to stay “friends” with people even as we move away or drift apart. One of the things Facebook robs us of, however, is a recognition of those liminal moments and the invitation to say goodbye. When we are aware that we won’t have the same relationship with someone anymore, we can choose to say goodbye. We can tell them what knowing them as meant to us. We can tell them what we hope for their future. We can separate offering each other gratitude and blessings. We can sign each other’s yearbooks.
It’s not easy to say goodbye and yet it’s so important. If not, when do we take the time to recognize and appreciate a relationship in our lives? When do we say, “I’m so glad to have known you”?
I was honored to give one of the commencement speeches at our graduation. (No, I wasn’t valedictorian. I was chosen by a committee of teachers.) At the time I was acutely aware of how very much being together in high school had meant to all of us and that many of us wouldn’t see each other again. I wanted to hold open that moment for our senior class, to recognize and appreciate our time together, and to say goodbye meaningfully. My speech is below if you’d like to read it. (I saved it along with the various handwritten drafts. It was different times.)
So I encourage everyone to notice those transitions in life and to recognize that relationships will be changing. Even though you might say “I’ll see you on Facebook,” take the time to say what the friendship has meant to you. Take the time to tell them how you are a different person because you have been friends. Answer the invitation and say goodbye.
“Don’t You Forget About Me” – Graduation, 1985
I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. It seems like only yesterday we were pretending that we weren’t Freshmen so we wouldn’t have to eat dog biscuits or anything else equally foolish. This has been our year. I still don’t think we deserved last place in the float competition, although I must say that our hall decorations left something to be desired. I’m really going to miss Friday night football games, those exciting rallies with our cavewomen song leaders, talk about the latest change at P.G. High, and the big wheel races down the center hallway.
Today is not only goodbye to P.G. High, but also goodbye to some of our best friends. You know, the hardest part of growing up is learning to leave behind those friends that mean the most to us, the friends who have made these four years bearable.
It’s been said that you can never go back, and I suppose that’s true. You can though, when you hear a certain song or return to a special place like Santa Cruz, remember the good times and laugh at the bad times. What a silly thing it
was to think that your life was over because that guy you met at a party or the girl in the red Porsche didn’t call you back.
Today, as we leave this school for the last time, many feeling relieved, many feeling sorrowful, we take with us a sound education and beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. We say we are glad to finally escape, but aren’t you going to miss the familiar faces, the talk about the Best Legs Contest, the gossip about who did what at so-and-so’s party whose parents were out of town, the friendly, reassuring smiles of the people who know what you’re going through because they’re going through it too? I am.
So, remember all the good times we’ve had and all the good people we’ve known here, and gather the strength from those memories that you need to go out into a new and sometimes frightening world and give it all you’ve got. I know you can do it.
Remember always, each one of you is a very special person. You deserve all the happiness that the world has to give, so here’s to you. I won’t ever forget about you — so don’t you forget about me, don’t you dare. Thank you, and goodbye.
This post is dedicated to my very best friends senior year: Cindy and Shana. Shana left this earth four years ago and we miss her dearly.
Cue Simple Minds, Don’t You:
Hey, hey, hey, hey ohhh…