In a week or two, this generation becomes the Class of 2020. I have one that was 2019. And another that will be 2021. But my third child graduated Grade 8 this year, and they’re commemorating with a drive-by ceremony on Monday.
I was actually the Class of 2000. I remember so clearly being a young girl in elementary school and my father having a conversation with a buddy as they tried to calculate and count what my graduating year would be. I remember them distinctly talking about 2000 and how rad it would be (he probably said ‘cool’, cause I don’t recall ever a time my father using ninja turtle slang to describe anything) that I’d be the graduating class of the new Millennium. I never, ever forgot that.
Especially when I got to high school and realized that Grade 13 (OAC) was going to severely put a damper on that plan. With doing five years instead of the typical four, my grad year was going to technically become 2001. I could skip Grade 13, that was an option. But without 13, it was going to be harder to get into post-secondary. So, because I’m an unbelievable school dork, whom, even to this very moment still wishes she was dumping truck loads of freshly shaved pencil crayons into a newly purchased pencil case with that new fall smell, I decided to, instead, condense those five years into four. That way I could graduate with my OAC classes, but I could do it as part of the Year 2000 Graduating class.
Neat theory, hey? It meant no spares, no failing, and summer school. And – checks notes – I’m an unbelievable school dork who was absolutely stoked to continue school through the summer.
Here’s how my brain ticks along. In the movie “Empire Records”, Gina takes a swipe at Corey by asking her when she possibly had time to bake cupcakes for Rex Manning Day. Corey retorts: “My father says there are 24 usable hours in every day, thank you!” I live and die by this sword. Every moment of every day is another moment you could actually be doing something useful.
So what was I going to do for two, very long months over the summer between classes? I already had a part-time job that kept me busy at least 14 – 20 hours out of the week. But what else? I needed to stay busy to stay outta trouble, and going to school seemed like the perfect fit. So I hauled my ass out of bed every morning three July’s in a row to add another credit to my scholastic career.
(Let me add – by the time I got to the back half of Grade 11, the “using every space of time I have” sentiment reached max density. I even got bored of the lunch spare in the middle of the day. What was I supposed to do for 90 minutes between classes on campus? So I decided to work in the school cafeteria for the first half. I’d get paid for a half hour of work, then have an hour to eat, catch up, then head back to class. Seriously. I did this right up until I finished Grade 12.)
By the time I’d reached my fourth and final year of high school, I had all of my Grade 12 classes completed. In fact, that final summer school year, I took an OAC class. I slipped into OAC with my peers a year ahead of me. I had taken so many classes, and zero spares, I only needed six more to graduate. So, I took three classes in the morning, worked a half hour in the caf, hopped a city bus to my favourite local diner, ate lunch whilst doing homework, then hopped another city bus to work for the evening rush. And do it all again the next day. I remember this schedule so completely. I’d spend the afternoons in the smoking section of the restaurant, and eat up some delicious monstrosity served up by a greasy spoon.
And for what? To become the graduating class of 2000.
In 1999, Baz Luhrman (the top shelf director who stole my heart with his rendition of ‘Romeo + Juliet’ with Leo & Claire) imparted his life manifesto in a gut-wrenching spoken word piece he called “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen”. (I’ll post the lyric vid at the end.) For years, I have pulled out pieces of his advice and applied them to my own life. “Live in New York once, but leave before it makes you cold.” “Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.” “Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do with your life at 22. Some of the most interesting 40 year old’s I know still don’t.” “You are not as a fat as you imagine.” “Dance. Even if it’s in your own living room.” “Be kind to your knees.” “Throw out old bank statements.” “Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t.” “Your odds are half chance, so are everybody else’s.” And – as aforementioned – these are pieces of the words that I actually still have memorized. I took Baz like the gospel. I still do.
At work, we’ve been requested to lay down our own pieces of advice for the Graduating Class of 2020. Part of what I wrote included a quote from Baz. And part of it was “my own meandering experience”, as he so eloquently describes his musing.
To sum, to suggest, to impart, to imprint, to immortalize and to look back on, I’ll leave this for 2020.
You are a part of history.
You have graduated in a historical year of triumph, of uncertainty, of revolution.
You are an integral cog in the wheelhouse of a generation who are narrating what we will read in our history books, and teach the children who come after you.
You are so important. And your voice has been heard. We are so proud of you, and what your class has done to perpetuate real, authentic change.
You are standing on a great precipice, in a year that dared you to swim, expecting you to drown in the tide. And yet, you remained. You conquered.
As you shutter the doors on your childhood, and prepare the blueprints for the next wave of your life, always remember:
To stretch. Warm up all of your muscles, including your heart.
To live honestly. Then you won’t have to remember anything.
To have a joke on the ready. So you can always break the ice.
To call often. So they don’t forget the sound of your voice.
To accept yourself. They will, if you do.
And wear sunscreen.
Congratulations, Class of 2020.
— c ☆