Senior Remarks | On Replay

Executive Edtior Nora Miller spoke at ETHS’ virtual graduation ceremony on May 23. Watch their remarks above, and read them below.

The book doesn’t end if you don’t finish it, right?

Hello, thank you to all of the Evanston students, families, and faculty members who could join us today as we celebrate the commencement of the ETHS Class of 2021. 

My name is Nora Miller and I have an exceedingly complicated relationship with endings.

Endings are what cause me to collapse into the seats of a movie theater, they are what allow me to pull out the Ben & Jerry’s, they are what force me to throw a worn-out book across the room. I am always left wishing the scene, line, or note could have been different. 

Sometimes, I wish endings didn’t happen at all.

Epilogues, season finales, and last songs are so grueling that I would rather stop, before having to experience them. 

The irony was, to say the least, palpable last April and May when it finally settled in that high school as we knew it “ended” on March 13th, 2020. 

Our education may have continued, but the COVID-19 Network canceled our show a season early. An insurmountable number of events, memories, relationships, connections vanished into thin air.

For over a year we unraveled into the unknown, not knowing what our lives would look like each coming day, let alone what our senior year would shape up to be.

Even still, this past year has introduced us to volumes of unexpected stories, memories, and Tik Toks that will take lifetimes to holistically recount. The challenges we saw and faced have altered the trajectory of our entire generation. 

At the ages of sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen, rather than singing the fight song in the senior section, we witnessed a horrendously deadly, isolating, mind-eclipsing global pandemic and a national reckoning with racism within our country.

We were suspended, wonderstruck, not by amazing musical and theatrical performances by our fellow Wildkits, but by “Act of God” days, devastatingly untimely deaths, turbulent presidential election campaigns, egregious images of a national insurrection, and an uncertain trial with a clear verdict. 

Instead of trying on prom dresses this spring, we witnessed the wielding of a community; the mobilization of young people. This year, we observed the facilitation of science, not in a bio lab, but on a global stage—illuminating light at the end of the tunnel. We reveled in the reimagination of ourselves and our peers despite our physical distance. We persisted in creating change within the Evanston community, even if it seemed like everyone else stopped listening. 

We traded in the pain of losing the one year everyone talks “so much about,” for the safety of the entire Evanston family.

The world we were raised in crumbled; it is slowly reconstructing itself after shattering loss. Today, we are slowly starting to grasp the arms of our loved ones and the keys to our stadiums and stages; we’ve safely opened the doors to our beloved school. 

Wildkits, we are bearing witness to a country, a city, a group of high school seniors that is beginning to heal—after one year of “unprecedented times” and logging onto Zoom instead of walking into a classroom. 

Now, as we set off into society, we are given a unique opportunity to help mend a deeply gruesome period in our nation’s history. 

Yes, maybe Corona closed our book a chapter too soon, but the connections we made at ETHS remain. They are the moments that allowed us to persevere through the pandemic in the first place. 

Next year, I will be attending the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. There, I will be studying the subject that I fell in love with at Evanston Township, journalism.  

Even when I am halfway across the country, I know that when something exciting, unexpected, or even unfortunate happens to me, I will just think “It’s a great day to be a Wildkit.” 

As I start my journey as a reporter, I’ll imagine my freshman self, clutching the pages of the Evanstonian, finally developing an understanding of how my words could find communion with others who looked like me. 

I will always think of Dr. Wiener showing our sophomore ChemPhys class, with his water bottle, explaining that he is “speeding up” his “chemical reactions,” every time I take a sip of H2O. 

When I enter into a complex discussion with peers, family, or someone I just met, I will remember the conversations that began from a Students Organized Against Racism event. I will hear the words “love liberates” with each remark that I make. 

Every time that I hear “You Gotta Be,” “I Can’t Wait,” or “The Middle,” I will vaguely remember the melody, and eventually recognize our iconic Friday songs. 

Perusing my phone, I will be frustrated that I won’t have a service like ETHS Bell to tell me when my next class starts, and, whenever I decide to walk to my destination rather than drive, I will think of Mr. Yietrif, who somehow always manages to be walking around the entirety of Evanston at once.  

You might not be able to watch your favorite movie again for the first time. The words will not hang in the air the way that they did the first time you finished your favorite book. You can’t add more minutes to your favorite song, and high school may not have ended perfectly. But honestly, we should not see this as an ending at all. These past four years are the beginning of a reel that we will play back in ten, twenty, or fifty years into the future. This is the start of our playlist.  

So, let us hold all of the magnificent, extraordinary, and even mediocre imprints Evanston has had on us in the ten-hour, mental playlist that has been a high school, and, ever so softly, keep it on replay forever. 

Thank you.