1997 Mary Schmich Essay

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We came and went from our open high school campus, grabbing rides to the Burger King down the street or Slurpees from the 7-11.

After school, we waited tables for less than minimum wage, then holed up in our rooms doing homework, isolated from each other.

Staying connected took work with occasional phone calls or a snail mail letter, and news sometimes felt achingly slow to arrive when it couldn’t be sent by text.

Yet, as we started venturing from college to career, we reconnected through My Space then Facebook groups specifically started to bring us back together.

And that’s okay because, re-reading the lyrics today, it’s clear the only advice any of us actually needed was spelled out in the original text.

A snapshot of the class of ’99 is a time warp back to baggy jeans, chokers, and babydoll dresses.Now racing toward 40, we’re losing an increasing number of our classmates every year, and we’ve said good-bye to parents, siblings, and our own children.What we wouldn’t give to add one more picture to that album, to celebrate one more milestone together, to freeze those moments relegated to photo paper.Our identities took shape without guidance from You Tube superstars and #authentic Instagram influencers, cyber bullies or Photoshop.Today, our crooked smiles and unwelcome blemishes can be remedied with a Snapchat filter, but those newfound wrinkles, gray hairs, and baggy eyes are evidence of laughter, tears, long days, and even longer nights we’ve encountered over the past two decades.Given a healthy dose of summer road trips growing up, a jaunt over the St.Croix River didn’t faze me at 13, but this was the first time some of my classmates ever left the state.As one of 17 valedictorians in my class (yes, you read that right), I’d talked my way into what I considered to be the desired final speaking position.I wanted the proverbial final word—and it wasn’t about friendships or memories, thankfulness or nostalgia.I understand and appreciate why many people never leave home (a 2015 New York Times article noted the average American lives within 18 miles of his or her mother) but moving away — far, far away — taught me resilience, patience, respect for others, and an appreciation for the time I spend in my “home town” because I make it back so rarely. When did my graduating class begin lamenting about “kids these days?Others my age who have lived or traveled widely in the years since graduation often echo my sentiment. Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders . ” We wallow in nostalgia over Dawson’s Creek reruns and an era of teen flicks featuring Leonardo Di Caprio or Alicia Silverstone.


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