Seniors celebrate on the FAC stage at the beginning of the first day of school on Aug. 14. Photo: Fred Assaf

Hey seniors, it’s a wrap, or nearly so.

As Spring Break disappears in the rearview mirror, this journey we started together four years ago careens steadily and shakily toward its conclusion. Graduation is right around the corner. Sure, coronavirus rages all around us, literally stopping all of Italy in its tracks. But a pandemic won’t stop the clock. Time marches on, seemingly virus-proof, like an immune system clad in a Kevlar vest and cammo hat.

In a few weeks, soon to be measured in days, and then hours, at our commencement we’ll stand together as a class for the final time and swing the tassels atop our mortarboard hats from the right side to the left. But not until we’ve pretend-studied for, and then half-heartedly taken, five AP tests that neither affect our final grades nor (for me, at least) yield any usable college credits.

Not until we hear from a graduation speaker who reminds us that the word “commencement” means “beginning” and therefore its utterance does not signify the end of our education (or, maddeningly, the end of their speech, either).

And finally, not before we shout “hooray” together, toss those mortarboard hats in the air, and bump elbows with each other in a CDC-approved celebration. Only then will it be time to go, to leave this castle, to fly this coop. I get nostalgic at times like these, so I know that I may need a nudge out the door. I hope whoever shoves me has Purell’d their hands first.

I’ll honestly miss this place, just as I’ll miss all of you who welcomed me four years ago and along the way ever since. I arrived here, in 2016, an undersized kid from New York City who talked kind of funny and was used to ordering pizza by the slice because, well, in New York City you could and you did. I’ll leave here, in 2020, a medium-sized kid who talks kind of funny (now, in a Southern way) and doesn’t order pizza by the slice because, well, in Atlanta you can’t and you don’t. But thankfully, now, I have tons of friends with whom to share the whole pie. I’ll miss them all.

In a few months, I’ll head to California, where they put pineapple on pizza in a culinary atrocity. There, I’ll announce to a freshman orientation group that “I’m Ben from Georgia”(!). I’ve now lived in the North, and the South, and soon the West. I hope that college in California will be an exciting and broadening experience for me, just like coming to Pace Academy in Atlanta was. While I’m looking forward to it, I don’t expect that I could possibly find better teachers, better friends or a better experience than I did here at Pace.

I just hope I find better bagels there – actually, how could I not!

Top photo: Seniors mark the first day of school on Aug. 14 with a parade to campus down W. Paces Ferry Rd. Photo: Fred Assaf

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