The Picture That’s Worth a Thousand Words
The photo above is revealing on many levels. At first glance, five gorgeous seventeen- and eighteen-year-old young women are standing tall, looking like models in their gowns and high-heeled shoes. But knowing when the image was taken gives new meaning to the story. It was captured on May 2, 2020, the date that their high school prom had been scheduled. Along with every other senior-year milestone that had been wiped out by the pandemic, that, too, was abolished.
Despite the disappointment, my daughter, Taylor, and her friends decided to get glammed up anyway, donning their long dresses, the traditional senior style, to take pictures to mark the occasion—or rather, the lack thereof.
Following the social distancing rules, they stood six feet apart while posing for the photos. It was a memorable hour-long photo session with beautiful, bright smiles all around. The girls made a few jokes about their nonexistent prom dates and their nonexistent prom parties, and their sweet laughter was the only melody to be heard that evening.
After filling their phones with pictures, the girls parted ways. With nowhere to go, no restaurants that were open, and no sleepovers allowed, they each headed back to their homes, back to quarantine.
Years from now, the memory of meeting up for a photo session in their prom attire will probably fade, but these pictures will serve as a reminder of an extraordinary time in history, and how these young women overcame the many obstacles they faced in their senior year of high school.
The girls joined together to show the world—to show themselves—how to make a sad situation better. Finding a way to celebrate what they had lost was a demonstration of their remarkable growth during a challenging time in their lives. They understood that they had no control over their circumstances, but what they did have control over was their power to change their attitudes.
Their physical appearance in the photo speaks volumes about their characters. The grins spread across their faces signifies their determination to withstand whatever difficulties they may encounter ahead. The way they posed, standing upright and proud, represents their confidence and readiness to embrace the future—both individually and collectively.
Looking back on the pre-prom images taken from their junior year, the girls are standing close together, shoulders touching, with their arms wrapped around each other. Had they been allowed to take those same photos this year, they would have, but with the social distancing rules in place, they had to remain six feet apart. However, the physical space between them is nothing more than a mirage, masking their deep connection and strong friendship with one another.
The pandemic has created a tremendous amount of uncertainty in everyone’s lives—uncertainty about the economic devastation, when and if a vaccine will be ready, how long we can sustain a lockdown, and how much the easing of restrictions will exacerbate the spread of the virus. And millions of students have no idea of the impact this is going to have on higher education. Many are reevaluating their path and the possibility of taking an alternative route to a post-secondary degree.
Initially, when my daughter was grappling with the loss of her senior-year festivities, she told me that what was helping her deal with her sorrow was knowing that college was around the corner, an experience she’d been dreaming about and working toward throughout her high school career. Yet at this point, we’re not even sure if the university she’s planning to attend will reopen on time, and even if they do, it’s hard to imagine that they will resume under normal conditions.
Regardless of how the next few months and years play out, there are some certainties that I can say about my daughter and her friends: They will, for sure, adapt to whatever is thrown their way with inner strength and fortitude. When they want to make a difference, they will gather with like-minded people, rallying for causes that better humanity. They will speak out for what they believe in. They will help others. They will be community-minded. And at every turn, they will spread their love to the world around them––with the same empathy, support, and affection they have been expressing toward each other while in high school, and especially in the last few months of their senior year.
It is so sad that the 2020 graduates miss out on so many rites of passage and are facing a future with so many unknowns. You expressed things so beautifully in your post. You always do.