Author’s note: This editorial was originally published in the June 13 issue of the Ephrata Review. Part of it got cut off due to technical issues. Here’s the editorial in its entirety.
By: Rosalba Ugliuzza
Oh my gosh!
Has it really been 10 years since I’ve graduated high school? Seriously? No, it can’t be.
I’m being punk’d right now. Ashton, where the heck are you?
Unfortunately, the famous Mr. Kutcher doesn’t appear, and there are no signs to indicate that I am hallucinating. The only evidence marking the dreaded truth of time passed is a folded piece of notebook paper in my hands, written by me to me, 10 years ago.
Oh my gosh … I gasped as those three words came out of my mouth when I got my letter in the mail last week. I had completely forgotten about it, and after reading my short letter over and over again, memories of my senior year at Ephrata High School came flooding back. At the time, the assignment in Mr. Harding’s Social Issues class was supposed to be a goal-setting activity to get our minds thinking about the future, but as I later realized, the letter means so much more.
What seems so true when you’re 19 takes on a different perspective when you’re 29. At the time, I was that short girl who dressed up as a Leprechaun for Pick on a Senior Day, was heavily involved in extracurricular activities and couldn’t wait to graduate high school. I was ready to make my mark. But little did I know, as I reflect back to 10 years ago, that certain circumstances happen unexpectedly, and you learn not to take life for granted.
The letter didn’t serve as just a goal-setting activity for me but an outlet expressing my thoughts and fears about the future, particularly when it hit close to home. My father was diagnosed with cancer the last semester of my senior year, and it hit me hard. I remember telling a few people about it, but I mostly kept it to myself. In my letter, I wrote how my world had just stopped when I heard the news, how my father’s determination to beat the disease was an inspiration to me and how much I loved him dearly and wanted him to survive. I had hoped that by the time I read my letter again, my father’s cancer would be in remission and that he would be able to see his only daughter graduate from college. I am happy to report that he has succeeded with flying colors on both accounts.
Times have certainly changed since we were in high school. Ten years ago, AOL Instant Messenger was the “it” way of talking to friends after school or over the weekends. Now Facebook is our friend.
It’s amazing how the magic of social media has evolved in our daily lives of communication. According to my idol and New York Times best-selling author and award-winning journalist Maria Shriver, who served as this year’s commencement speaker at University of California’s Annenberg School of Communication, communicating is like breathing now: we do it instantly, automatically, and effortlessly. It’s our oxygen in reaching out to friends and classmates to the other side of the room and to the other side of the world. We live in a planet where we are communicating 24/7 on tablets, apps, games, friending, talking, texting, and tweeting. Wires and wirelessly, you name it, we communicate with it!
It was interesting to see my former classmates’ Facebook statuses when they received their letters. I enjoyed having a discussion with them. Some had accomplished their goals, and others did not. Me? I can say I’m pretty satisfied with myself. Actually from reading the letter, I’ve thought a lot about the person I’ve become since that time. I was inspired enough that I wrote and sealed another personal letter and put it in a special place. Hopefully, I’ll be able to achieve my new goals in the next 10 years. We’ll just have to wait and see.
I must take this opportunity to thank Carrie Rupp, Tina Wargo Dietrich, Amanda Wade Cieri, and Andrea Mull Reynolds for taking the time to answer my questions for the story. It was great getting in touch with you girls again on Facebook, and I hope we can continue in the future.
I believe more teachers should follow Mr. Harding’s lead of having high school seniors addressing letters to themselves. Today’s teenagers live in the “here and now” moment. We need more educators to help students to think outside the box and to think differently about what they want to accomplish in the future. Society is constantly changing, and the time will creep up to you before you even know it. To the future Ephrata and Cocalico seniors, my advice to you is to make many lasting memories of your last year of high school. Don’t hesitate to plan your future right now. Step outside the box. You may not achieve all of your goals in 10 years and that’s OK. Make new goals. Be the best person you can be and remember to live life to the fullest.
Personally, the letter serves as a special memento of my time at EHS. Just this past week, I had the opportunity to walk the hallways of my alma mater for the first time since I’ve graduated. It felt weird being back, but it felt great seeing some of the teachers who made an impact on me. I think I speak for the Class of 2002 when I say thank you to Mr. Harding for making an impact on us. It’s obvious that by saving and then mailing our letters out, you truly care about your students past and present. Thank you for reminding us of how time is precious.
I will treasure my letter forever.