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Who We Are and Who We Want To Be

by Anna Hoffland

Fellow students, teachers, community and board members, parents, families--thank you, for everything you have done in supporting the class of 2020, and for making us feel loved! This is not at all what we imagined our graduation season would look like, but it is certainly one we will never forget.

As our world was put on “pause” because of COVID-19, and when so many unexpected curveballs were thrown at us, many of us were asking, “How is this going to work? Will there ever be an end to this monotonous cycle of sleeping, eating, Netflix binging, followed by some homeworkavoiding, leading right back into more Netflix before we hit pause for some more eating, and then finally falling asleep again? Are we ever going to graduate?” I can happily answer that with a huge “Yes! We made it.” Everyone can take a deep breath! We are finally graduating, which means we get to “move on to the next stage of our lives.” But, before we ambitiously launch into our prospective futures, I think right now would be the perfect time to hit “pause” just once let this special moment linger just a little longer--and as we set the remote control down, let’s reflect on our time in the Rib Lake School District...reflect and consider who we have been and who we want to be.

I didn’t start my education with all of you; I was homeschooled from kindergarten through sixth grade. I joined “the Rib Lake Class of 2020” as a quiet and timid seventh grader. Because I wasn’t (and never will be) the life of the party, I have had the chance to do a lot of observing. One of the first things I remember noticing about our class is that….you all made fun of each other. Now I know that sounds bad, but what I mean is that you seemed to know each other very well...almost as if you were family. Well, a good number of you actually ARE family! But, as strange as it sounds, your laughing and teasing revealed that you cared for one another and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Although I didn’t know all of you as well, I felt welcome. Our class has always been a welcoming one….we all get along well. My junior year, what I loved the most about my last season in volleyball, was playing the game with mostly just my classmates. We’d enjoyed playing together for years, and I felt that we truly loved not just the game, but the fact that we were doing it with each other. This is just one example of the class I grew to know and love.

I’ve also come to realize that this class is focused. We are committed to what we care about. Anyone who watched the boys basketball team, led by our seniors, could say, without a doubt, that they were determined, disciplined, and driven...with their end goal in mind. I can confidently say that my fellow classmates in music always wanted our performances to be the best that they could be, for ourselves and for the community we shared them with. When it comes to academics, we have always had a very high percentage of our class on the honor rolls. Not only was there a bit of friendly competition, but I feel we also had plenty of eagerness towards learning information, and not just earning grades.

Family. Welcoming. Together. Focused. Committed. This is who we have been, but what about tomorrow? Who do we want to become?

Most graduation speeches contain a lot of talk about chasing dreams, setting goals, and pursuing ambitions. You often hear messages like “You can achieve whatever you set your mind to,” “the sky’s the limit,” and that “Our hope in life is in what we make of it.”

But what if our hopes fail us? What if the goals we are striving for slip away? What if our dreams become broken?

Class of 2020, this hits close to home. As we were approaching our final semester, there were a lot of events that were “supposed-to” happen. We were “supposed-to” play that last game. We were “supposed-to” perform that last concert. We were “supposed-to” cross the stage for our diploma on May 22. Those “supposed-tos” turned into “never- going-tos.” If the things we have been and have worked for can be ripped away so swiftly, then what is worth living for? Are we merely chasing the wind or do we want to pursue something that will endure? Maybe It’s when our dreams come crashing down around us that we begin to see the answer to this question. Could it be that this pandemic has been able to give us some perspective on what really matters? C.S. Lewis once said “We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life.”

I’m going to be honest with you for a moment….looking back on these past four years, I have a few regrets. Sometimes, I feel there were moments that I missed out on. Did I make the most of the opportunities I had to invest in people? I tend to make a LOT of “to-do” almost every day (I know….a little overkill). The problem is, that even when I “do” everything on them, I still feel like I haven’t done enough. It’s funny...lately I find myself feeling more fulfilled after watching silly Youtube videos with my sister, or playing Dutch Blitz with my family than after checking off all my “to-do’s”. I am privileged to have received some honors and awards throughout my school years, and I am extremely grateful for them, but were they as fulfilling as maybe I had once hoped? Once the rush of triumph and success fades? What I know is that there are special moments attached to these accomplishments that I do remember…. moments that bring me great joy. I remember celebrating those victories with my family and friends. I remember being able to share music with people, and see it bring joy to their hearts. I’m realizing now that those awards and successes would amount to nothing if it weren’t for the people that shared them with me. Even though being organized and disciplined are excellent and useful attributes to have, I wish I had invested even more in relationships...ones that would last for this life and beyond.

Why am I telling you this? Because from this point on, we can choose to live for what’s really important. We all know life is short--just a vapor--and there are certainly no guarantees about tomorrow. But, we have an opportunity to experience a greater joy than that which our “supposedtos”, our achievements and our best laid plans can bring. We can choose to invest in relationship--in knowing God and loving well the people who cross our paths. We can choose to remember what we have been and what we have learned. So. Class of 2020, pick up that remote-control and press “play.” Now is our time to make moments that mean something, ones that will last for eternity.