Seniors celebrate on the FAC stage at the beginning of their first day of senior year. Photo: Fred Assaf

I don’t really remember my last day of physical high school, mostly because I didn’t realize at the time that it would be my last day. It was a half-day, with each class mostly consumed by troubleshooting our newly downloaded Zoom platform. And then it was over.

I got my backpack and did the familiar route from the Commons to the parking lot, and got lunch with friends. I had no idea that in a few days, even the idea of going out to lunch with friends would be inconceivable. And, although it may have been naive, I had absolutely no conception of the fact that my senior year, as I had known it, would be over.

As I write this, we are more than one month into online learning, and although it might sound strange, the reality of the situation still hasn’t sunk in. The things I once took for granted – going to lacrosse practice, hugging a friend, sitting on the benches in the gardens – are now unthinkable.

A lot has been said about what the seniors have missed out on, so I’ll resist the urge to emphasize those losses once again. It is too late for the Class of 2020 to get back what was supposed to be the best weeks of high school. But I hope that it is not too late for us to impart the wisdom we’ve garnered from the experience.

To the freshmen, the sophomores, the juniors: do not make our loss a waste. Please, while you can, appreciate Pace. I promise you: as much as you may complain about that one teacher, that one person who annoys you or the extra sprints your coach makes you do, it is better than the alternative of having none of it at all.

Hopefully, you already know to treasure your close friends. The deep, lasting friendships you will make and have made in high school are probably the most important thing you will take away from your years at Pace. Do not take these friends for granted.

But almost as importantly, appreciate the mundane. Appreciate your friendships with the people that you may not see outside of school – these very relationships, you will come to realize, are what made your experience at Pace unique.

Speaking with my friends, one common sentiment is repeated over and over. Yes, of course, we miss our close friends, but we know that we will see them again. But one of the most painful aspects to come to terms with is the loss of the friendships and acquaintances that we know will not make it past high school but are no less important.

Because as much as I mourn the loss of the normally scheduled GAP Day, and prom and graduation – and believe me, I feel these losses deeply – I mourn most of all the everyday, overlooked parts of school just as much because I took them for granted.

Appreciate that person you have the inside joke with in math. Appreciate a chaotic, loud break in the Commons. Appreciate those five-minute walks between classes. Walking into college counseling for some candy from Ms. Williams’ candy bowl.

Hearing Mr. Gannon tell someone to tuck in their shirt from down the hall. Seeing some poor freshman get dress coded by Ms. Smith. I promise you – you will miss the tiny things that fade into the background of what seems actually important.

Do not take for granted the ability to show your gifts and passions to your school community, whether in the art room, the theater or at Riverview. I had no idea when I played my last lacrosse game that it would be my last time ever putting on a Pace jersey and representing my school, surrounded by teammates that have become some of my closest friends.

And so I urge you: enjoy every game, every practice, every sprint. It will be over before you know it.

To the Class of 2021: it will be up to you to take up this challenge first. Respect the legacy of this class by savoring your senior year. When we reached the end of our junior year, we were told that it would be up to us to set the tone for the school.

Next year, it will be your turn. Be the seniors that we so enjoyed being, until it was cut short. Lead your sports teams, theatre casts, and band ensembles with a new awareness of just how fortunate you are to experience that.

Yes, we look forward to college, and I have no doubt that come September (hopefully), we will all be absolutely thrilled and more than ready to go. But for now, we are grieving the loss of what should have been the most memorable part of high school. They say that hindsight is 20/20. We can’t go back, but we can serve as role models for the rest of you.

Please believe us when we tell you to appreciate every moment you have in the Pace bubble. We spent a lot of high school, like any high schooler, complaining about assignments, teachers and coaches, and yet there is not one senior I know who would not give almost anything for just one more day at Pace.

I was always aware that I was fortunate to go to Pace. I have been at Pace for four years, and I am grateful for every single one of them. I feel incredibly fortunate for the education I received, the trips I got to take, the teachers who taught me, and most of all, the intelligent, interesting and unforgettable people I met along the way, whether I was close with them or not. But it took having my time there cut short to make me, and most of my classmates, realize just what we had.

I will never spend another free wasting time in the Commons when I knew I had work to do. I will never play with my teammates again. We will have to wait a few months to be able to receive a diploma. So, when the time comes for you to resume normal life at Pace again, and to do all of these things, remember the Class of 2020.

We are fortunate for the time we had at Pace, even if it wasn’t as long as we may have wanted. Savor every moment, without assuming that your time is infinite. Take it from us – it isn’t, so every moment has to be experienced fully. Whenever things go back to normal, if there’s anything you retain from these strange months in limbo, let it be that.

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