To the Class of 2019: Some Things You Should Know

Real quick, while this is a letter to the class of 2019, I am specifically talking to the new senior class of the school I just left. Some of these things could apply to everyone who is graduating next year, but most of are specific to those graduating from the school I graduated from. 

To the Class of 2019,

You're here! This is the home stretch of your high school career, and I can promise you one thing: it will nothing like you expect it to be. Yes, you may know which classes you're taking and where your locker is and who your best friends are, but you still have no idea how different this year will be from what you expect. With that in mind, I thought I would put together a small list of things I would have liked to know, so here you go: 

This year will be more stressful than you thought, but it will also be less stressful than you thought. There were times last year where I wasn't stressed at all. Everything was going well. All my homework was done and I was working with people I liked for group projects. My family life was good, and I was excelling at the things I loved. But then there were times when I wasn't getting an essay in on time because the conclusion wasn't coming together. There were moments where I was so anxious everywhere I went that even my own room was a stressful place to be. I struggled with my mental health last year in ways I had never struggled before. Senior year is stressful, but there are good moments. Savor those good moments because they will make the stressful ones worth it. 

You will experience things differently. If you're like me, you will feel nostalgic all year long until everyone else decides to be nostalgic as well. I was sad about graduating all the way from August to the end of April, and then May hit and all my emotions completely disappeared. I was so stuck in my stressful headspace that I didn't let myself think about anything besides school and homework and enrolling in college. By the middle of May I started to feel nostalgic again, but those feelings always disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived. In this upcoming school year, your floods of emotions may cause you to experience things differently than you have in the past. The Christmas banquet may be the best one ever, but you may find yourself on the verge of tears the whole time. Same goes for basketball games, and choir performances, and maybe even the last period of your least favorite class. Just remember that whatever you're feeling is completely valid, and it's simply your own way of preparing for the many changes that are ahead. 

Teachers are there to help you, even though it doesn't always feel like it. I have always been that person who is on the teacher's side, but last month, during one of my few mental breakdowns, I exclaimed that none of the teachers understood all the stress I was under, and none of them seemed to care about it. My mom smiled and nodded and waited for me to climb out of my hole. There will be moments where it feels like no one, especially the teachers, cares about what you're going through academically. It gets really busy really fast, and the end will creep up on you no matter how many countdowns you have on your wall. When it feels like the teachers don't care about you, remember that it's their job to make sure that you do well. Ask them for help, and listen when they give you information that will inevitably come in handy later. 

Some final things I'll leave you with - Remember that vulnerability is courage, and remember that you are all so brave. Remember that any of you can change the world. Remember that you are smarter, stronger, and better than you may think. I hope you all know these things, and I hope that you don't forget them when this upcoming year gets rough. Be there for each other, help one another through whatever this year will throw at you. Lastly, remember to have fun. This is your senior year, and there is nothing that feels the same as walking onto campus the first day and knowing that this is your year- the year where you know more than you have ever known, and the year where you are more prepared than you ever have been. Go out there and live your year to the best of your ability. I know all of you are going to do amazingly. 

~ Me, Class of 2018 

To Those Who Brought Me Here

This letter was taken from the family tribute I read during the first night of my graduation weekend. Most of this has already been read out to them, but I've added more since then. 

There have been a few times in my life when I have had to take a step back and look at all the people who have helped get me to this moment, but none of those times have felt like this one. This one feels a little bit bigger, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it definitely feels strange. There are so many people I could thank. I am constantly surrounded by friends and teachers who have helped me become this person that you see standing here right now, but there is no way I would be this person without my family. So, to…

Grandmom & Poppy - Both of you up the most generous, kind, hardworking, and intelligent people I know. You have fed me, housed me, helped me through geometry and algebra. I don’t think I will ever be able to fully comprehend all that you have done for me. Both of you have made my life as wonderful as you possibly could. You are my twin pillars- strong and sturdy, there to lift me up when I fall and to show me how to catch all the stars I could possibly hold. Without the two of you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am so proud to be your granddaughter.

Mom - For the past 18 years, you have given me everything I could possibly need or want. Notebooks for school and for writing down poems. Food for our house and for SA events. You have showed me how to see the good in everything. You have talked me down from many a figurative ledge, and you have always been there to pick up the pieces when I’ve fallen apart. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have a best friend for a mom, but I’m glad that I did. You have filled our home with love and with music, with poetry and with happiness. You have made my life what it is, and while I know it hasn’t always been easy, you have been the strongest role model I could have asked for. I love you so much. I am proud to be your daughter. Thank you for everything you have given me.

Austin - For the past sixteen years, you have been the constant in my life. Throughout our childhoods, we have shared rooms, toys, and fights. We have gone through ups and gone through downs, but, still, you have always been there. When I have a problem, I know you are there to listen. When I need someone to be excited about something with me, you are the person I know I can always go to. I am so proud of everything you have accomplished in your lifetime, and I know that you will continue to do amazing things. I am proud to be your big sister, and I love you very much. 

The "Senior" Girls -  All of you will always be the senior girls to me. My life would not be the same without all of you. Each of you have shown me how to be a better thinker, better speaker, and better person. Without any of you I wouldn't have become the person I am. I wouldn't have grown up this much, and I wouldn't have learned all I did in the past two years. All of you have touched my life in ways I didn't even think were possible and my life will never be the same, and for that I will be eternally grateful. To all of you- thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to be better. Without you, I truly don't know where I would be. 

There are so many more people that I could thank for all they’ve done. Friends, teachers, people who have lifted me up when I’ve fallen and placed me on higher ground so I could regain my standing. Those of you who have taken time out of your busy schedules to talk me out of the ditches I’ve dug for myself, thank you. You know who you are. Thank you for listening to my stories, my thoughts, and my qualms. Thank you for early mornings and Friday talks. Thank you for making me smile, making me laugh, and for crying with me when I needed you to. I don’t know where I would be without any of you. I love you deeply. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Love, 
Me

 

Deviled Eggs: A Letter to My Best Friend

Annaliese, 

I remember the day we met. It was August. I was very new and you really weren't, and we had both gotten our ears pierced a few months earlier. You were wearing those clear earrings that you can get away with at small Adventist schools, and after you introduced yourself to me, I asked you where you'd gotten them. We went past the usual small talk and I learned that you used to do cross country running and were the Religious Vice President. 

Then we didn't talk until May. 

Okay, so we talked a little bit. I sat by you at the Christmas Banquet and messaged you on Instagram that one time, but that's about it. We didn't really talk until Ditch Day when we were in the same car to the bowling place and ended up bowling at the same lane. I saw you were following someone on Instagram who I also follow, and we started talking about it. We haven't stopped talking since. 

In our year of friendship, we've managed to do a lot. You changed my mind about college without ever asking me to switch. We watched the sunrise at 6'AM over the Junior/Senior retreat, and we've had many, many cups of coffee. We've watched Gilmore Girls and have had multiple debates about who Rory should have ended up with (I will never stop trying to change your mind about Logan. That is a promise). In the past year, you have given me many things. 

You've given me food when I'm hungry and people to be around when my extroverted self is about to go insane. You've given me rides home at 1'AM and encouragement when I'm nervous about open mics. You've helped edit posts for this website and you've given me books of poetry for my birthday. You have listened to me rant about everything going on in my life, and you've braided my hair before the second act of the musical. You've called me when you have news and you've fought me about my love for Jess (Rory should have ended up with him. I will never stop trying to convince you of this. That is also a promise). To sum all of this up, you've given me a best friend. You are my best friend. 

You are the best friend who looks at me during class with a look that tells me everything you'll exclaim later at lunch. You've given me a best friend who is more excited about my poetry than I am sometimes. You've given me a best friend who, when seeing deviled eggs and the person who brought them, will look at me and cause us both to break out into laughter at a Gilmore Girls inside joke. You've given me a best friend who is willing to live with me for an entire school year. You have given me a best friend. You are my best friend.

We graduate in eight days, and then you're off to work at summer camp and I'm off to who knows where. I hope you know just how thankful I am for all the car rides, coffee, and laughter you've given  me in the past year, and I hope you know how excited I am for next year. Thanks for putting up with me this year, and thanks for everything else. Here's to the end of our high school careers, to an amazing summer, and to our upcoming Freshman year.

Love,
Claira  

 A photo booth picture from last month. 

A photo booth picture from last month. 

It Gets So Good

I have a clear memory of being fourteen, sitting in a chair looking a sheet of math, and thinking that if I were to just disappear, no one would notice. Everything would be okay, everything would be better, and I wouldn’t have to worry anymore. This is a letter to my fourteen-year-old self

A couple weeks ago you were sitting in a circle of people who you are lucky enough to call classmates and friends. You were singing songs and sharing personal stories that require vulnerability. You were crying, but it wasn't because you were sad. You were crying because you remembered that day four years ago when you were so done. Done with math, done with the people you were surrounded with, done with it all. You were crying because you knew that if you kept going down that path, you wouldn't be here now, sitting in this circle with these people telling these stories. You were crying because you wanted to tell yourself that it gets so good. So, to my fourteen year old self: 

It isn't always going to be like this. You are going to have days where smiling is all you can possibly do. Days where you get an A- on a Biology final, write a really good poem, or do something new and kind of scary. Days like this: 

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and this:

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And even days where your friends force you on a roller coaster and you make this face:

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You're going to join drama and choir, yearbook and journalism. You're going to be part of musicals, and student leadership. You're going to go to New York where you'll climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty; England where you'll climb many stairs of St. Paul's Cathedral; Utah, where you'll stand above canyons and feel small in the best way; and Scotland, where you'll hike around Ben Nevis. You're going to write a lot of poetry and you'll start a blog where you tell the stories of memories you're going to make. 

You're also going to twirl around a lot of places:

And hug a lot of people:

You're going to start over a lot, but everything will only get better each time. You're going to read books and find ones you like and ones you don't. You'll learn how to critique movies and pictures and how to stick up for yourself in a meeting. You'll even take a few Kung Fu classes, piano lessons, and you'll work as a proctor for a crane operator exam (your weirdest job to date!). You'll make some good speeches and gets some rounds of applause. You'll be enveloped in so many hugs you'll lose count, and you'll cry into the shoulders of so many people you'll never be able to thank them all. 

And even though you'll be lonely sometimes, you're also going to make some really good friends. Like these ones:

You're going to do a lot of things that scare you, like auditioning for musicals and walking up to a group of people and asking if you can sit with them. But whenever you do something that's hard, or you fail, or you just need some help, you have a really great family that you can lean on. Your family will only grow, and that's a good thing. 

Yeah, you're also going to encounter the bad stuff. You'll go through some heartbreaks, some worse than others. You'll move halfway through high school and get to know solitude a little too well. But when it gets bad, remember the stars, the canyons, the fireworks. Remember the places you've gone, the places you're going to go, and how loved you are. Remember warm nights with windows rolled down and music playing in the car, and remember nights where you're up until 2:00 in the morning talking to your best friend about what your future dorm room will look like. These are the moments that make it all worth it. All the heartbreak and moves and tears and rejections are worth it because every time something doesn't work out, something wonderful takes its place. Sometimes you'll feel small:

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But sometimes you'll feel strong:

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My point is that it gets good. Life gets really, really good. It's not perfect, but there are definitely perfect moments. You'll drink really good cups of coffee. You'll have really good days and really good nights. You'll go to basketball games and cut your hair and get your ears pierced. You'll eat really good food, like chocolate cake with raspberry filling and potato gnocchi. You'll learn lots of new things and grow into a new person that hopefully you'd be proud to know. So keep moving forward, I promise that it gets really good. 
 

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For My Best Friends

Hi,

Everyone told you you'd have to work harder than everyone else. Everyone told you that fear is just to motivate you, and everyone told you that being tired is just a sign you're doing something right. 

Everyone was wrong. 

Yes, you will have to work hard to get to where you're going. But no, fear is not always good. And no, being tired does not mean you're doing what you should be. 

Being tired means you need to sleep. Yes, sleep. Close your laptop and shut off your phone. The messages, emails, and due dates can wait eight hours. Crawl under your blankets and hug your stuffed animals close. Close your eyes and drift off into sleep. 

But when your alarm goes off, don't hit snooze. Step onto your floor and lift your hands into the air. Let yourself be thankful for what you have and take deep breaths. Drink your coffee slowly and read a poem, or three. You don't need to rush. Eat something. I don't care what it is, just eat something. Whether it's as fancy and prepared as pancakes or as rushed and hurried as a granola bar, eat something before you leave. 

When you step outside into the fresh air, walk with the knowledge that you know. You know yourself, you know where you're going, and you know that even if you don't know those things yet you will soon. Work hard, but not so hard that you physically can't work any harder. Push yourself, but be kind to yourself. Try things first, but ask for help when you need it. 

You are not one-half of a whole, you are the freaking circle. You don't need anyone else to come in and rearrange you. If someone is taking away from who you are, or they are adding negativity and disaster, it's okay to walk away. There are people who will know that you are whole. They will know that all they can do is add, and they know that all you can do for them is add. You can't change people, and you certainly can't change the people who want you to change them.

There will be bad days. There will be days when even after you've slept and eaten and had enough water you still feel tired, and hungry, and dehydrated. Those are the days for good books, good music, good people, good silence. There will also be good days. Days when you feel as though you could run forever, and days when nothing is in your way. Those are the days for rejoicing and laughter. Remember these days, write them down or take pictures. Record them in your memories and hold on to them as long as you can. 

Lastly, remember that you are you. You are not anyone else, and that's a good thing. Cut your hair if you want or grow it out to be as long as Rapunzel's. Do the thing that scares you the most. Think about what you want in life and then chase it. You are smart, talented, funny, beautiful, kind, and all the other things that you've already been told. You are capable. I have complete faith that you can do whatever you set your mind to. 

Love,

Me 

 

An Open Letter to Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama,

On November 4th, 2008, I was nine years old. I remember sitting with my mom on her bed and watching the election results come in. I remember she started to cry, and I remember realizing that I was watching something very important- something historical. 

I have grown up with your husband as my President, and you as my First Lady, and I couldn't have asked for something better. Over the past eight years, both of you have constantly spoken that kindness and helping people are two of the most important things. I have never liked conflict, and I think that was why this most recent election was so hard. But there you were, speaking about kindness and going high when they go low, and that made everything much easier. 

Aside from showing kindness to so many people, you have spoken about education. I come from a family of teachers, which has its pros and cons. However, I have never doubted that education is important, and I have tried my best to do as well as I could. Seeing someone speak so passionately about education was, and still is, inspiring to me. Thank you for showing that education and doing well in school is just as important as excelling in music or sports. 

Throughout much of my childhood and early teenage years, I was afraid of looking silly. I didn't want anyone to laugh at me, and to avoid this I also avoided trying things that would have made for excellent stories. Seeing you, as someone in a position of power, not be afraid of looking silly was a wake-up call of sorts for me. Why should I be afraid of looking silly when the First Lady does it and people love her? Thank you for showing me that I don't have to take myself so seriously. 

In your last speech as First Lady, you said that you hoped you made us proud. I can't speak for everyone, but I know that you made me proud to be both an American and a woman. I am so thankful that for the last eight years, I have had you to look up to. You have shown so many people what strong looks like, and I will be forever thankful for that. I promise to continue to try hard, and be kind to people. I promise to keep finding good, and to always find something to laugh about. I also promise to never forget these past eight years. Everything that you have done made this country better. And I promise, that for the rest of my life, I will do everything I can to make the world around me as good as it can be. 

Thank you,

Claira Eastwood