Senior Column: Just say yes!


Zoe Sawdon, Feature Editor

Ever since joining Talon my sophomore year of high school, I have fantasized about writing my senior column, the sacred piece that would signal an end to my high school journalism career. With all the pressure riding on this one final publication, I repeatedly told myself to avoid being cliche, whatever the cost. Well, here I am now, and this is probably the most cliche thing that I will ever write, but with a twist that I like to call: A worldwide pandemic that made my senior year implode.

During Freshman year, I certainly flew under the radar and didn’t take many risks. What I wanted was predictability, control, and security, but I quickly learned that you can’t experience anything if you’re always in your own little bubble. When the dreaded schedule cards were distributed in the winter of that year, I decided on a whim to join the Talon, which was only the beginning of a chain reaction of uncharacteristic spontaneity.

Assuming that risky scheduling choice would be the last of my worries for a while, I set off to enjoy a blissful summer with my friends and family. While boarding a plane to San Francisco, CA, however, I received a text message from my student ministries pastor at church asking if I’d be interested in leading a prayer group at Rochester High School. Apparently the rush from joining the Talon hadn’t worn off, because I emphatically agreed to the task, put my phone on airplane mode, and spent the remainder of the flight trying to understand what I had just done.

Before I knew it, “yes” had become my new favorite word. I was taking chances left and right, from quitting basketball and picking up tennis instead to flying to Boston with my AP US History class. I had come so far from the shy little freshman I was only a year before, sticking to her books and trying to preserve the routines that had carried her through life for so long. I realized those very routines were holding me back from experiencing high school as it should be, and simply saying “yes” freed me from their grip.

By junior year I had mastered saying “yes” to opportunities and events, so I turned my efforts inwards and worked to build a more confident version of myself. Here is where I found the security that I had been striving for as a freshman; I became my own best friend and learned to embrace both my shortcomings and strengths. Most people look back at their sixth grade selves and cringe, but honestly, middle school me was doing a lot of things right. Awkward situations didn’t phase her, she surrounded herself with accepting friends, and she loved who she was underneath the braces and sparkly barrettes. I didn’t realize this until 3 years into high school when I stopped comparing myself to others and focused on making my time at RHS the most meaningful for me, regardless of how that looked to everyone else.

While senior year entails a lot of exhausting planning for the future, it is also about reflecting on the moments and people who have brought you to that point and enjoying the product of your personal growth. With newfound flexibility and confidence, I coasted through the first half of senior year almost seamlessly until everything came to a sudden and unexpected end that infamous Wednesday in March.

I remember walking out to my car that afternoon, aware that the coronavirus was an impending threat, but unwilling to accept that I could have had my last day of high school without realizing it. As senior events, tennis season, and ultimately the remainder of the school year were cancelled without so much as goodbye, I had to face the harsh reality that I wouldn’t get the traditional send-off every high school student dreams of.

The swinging pendulum of my emotions oscillated between disappointment and anger for the final few months of school, but in the end, it settled on gratitude. For the entirety of senior year, I took a second-long video clip each day to capture something that made me smile. When I finally felt ready to watch the clips all together, I received some unexpected but much needed closure. Each second of the montage triggered a unique and beautiful memory, whether it was an impromptu locker room dance party or a striking sunrise while driving to school. It was clear that each day had been well-spent with very little conscious effort, owing to all those yesses in years before that had shaped my high school experience. The pandemic may have robbed me of some pretty important “should-haves,” but it cannot take away the six months prior that were lived with absolutely no regrets. I feel so much freedom in saying that I do not wish for a different senior year, but only more of the year that was and always will be one of the best years of my life.