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First off, I want to say it’s okay.
It’s okay to be sad about missing prom, or graduation, or the start of your senior year, or whatever guaranteed experience that has suddenly slipped away. To quote one of my favorite coming of age films, “Ladybird,” “Different things can be sad. It’s not all war.” You can mourn little moments. That’s okay.
It’s okay to be pissed off. None of this is your fault. It was a lack of national leadership that let things get so bad. It was at the hands of old, incompetent, white men that masks were not enforced early on and we were not warned soon enough. You can be mad at them. You can be mad at the world. That’s okay.
It’s okay to be happy. By the time my school shut down, I was ready to leave anyway. I never planned on going to prom and now I had a valid excuse. Once quarantine began, I started learning Spanish. I got to spend more time with my family. We got a dog. A lot of great things happened for me this year and the guilt of feeling that joy while so many suffered was hard to reconcile. But in the midst of insurmountable loss, there is no harm in being grateful for the good that came out of it. That’s okay.
This year was hard for everyone in different ways, on different scales. I’m writing this letter to the teenagers of 2020 because I want us all to know how strong we are. How powerful. I know that sounds corny. It is corny, but it’s true.
This has been a year of social movements led by young people. In the face of a pandemic, we continued to fight for the issues we’ve been advocating for since we were old enough to recognize the injustices of the world. When we had every right to be selfish and care only for ourselves, we didn’t.
The Black Lives Matter movement gained landmark support, taking over social media and the news cycle for months. We did that.
In what was arguably the most important election in United States history, Donald Trump was voted out of office. We did that.
It takes a shit ton of effort just to make it through life as a teenager, much less a teenager living through a pandemic. Some of us adapted, some thrived, some just barely scraped by. There is courage in all the forms of getting through.
I’m writing this letter to say, in case no one has told you yet, I’m proud of you.
I’m proud of us.