Last month, my first group of students -- my 2018 Zhangjiagang Senior High School sophomores -- graduated from school.
I'd really hoped to be there when they did and had talked to the school about speaking at their graduation, but as with so many plans that had been made in this strange year of 2020, these plans fell through. Due to the virus, it became a small, private ceremony with no outside visitors.
Because I never got to say these words, I wrote them out, then sent it to a colleague there to have it distributed to all of the graduating seniors.
They were my first students. They will always be special to me. So I wanted to say something special to them, and I'm sharing those words with you now.
If the photo text is too small for you to read, well, here's what it says:
Do you remember the class in which I told you that we are all storytellers?
Well, you’ve just reached the end of a chapter. Why do books have chapters? Because they give us places where we can look back at what we’ve just learned … and look forward to what comes next.
At the end of a chapter, you’re able to see things in a different light. You can see how much the characters have grown and changed. They interact with each other differently. Those teachers you thought were so cruel because they gave you so much homework? Now you can see how much they cared for you. Now, you might even consider them to be friends.
I wish I could have seen you at your graduation ceremony. I was looking forward to seeing all of the faces that would have been so familiar, yet so different. You have grown and changed. Your stories have gotten so much more interesting in the two years since I met you. And they’re about to get even more interesting.
At the end of this chapter, you can look ahead in awe and wonder at what lies ahead. For many of you, the next chapter will be university. What new stories await you there? What great adventures will you have as you gain more independence, as you start to picture your futures with more clarity and determination? What unexpected plot twists might take your lives in new directions? And what will happen in the chapters after that?
At the end of this chapter, I hope you can look back with satisfaction. You may not be able to rewrite the last three years, but you will be re-reading them for the rest of your lives. I hope they bring you happy memories. I hope they bring you memories of friendship, memories of self-discovery, memories of new things learned, and memories of so many people – teachers and administrators – who worked so hard to provide you with a better future. We’re all looking forward to reading your stories as you continue to write them outside the halls of this school.
Congratulations on your graduation from Zhangjiagang Senior High School. I’m so proud of you all. Now get out there and write some amazing stories!