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ERIN ANDERSON

If I have learned anything this year, it is that everything is going to change at one point or another. If you are like me, you are not very fond of change. I have always found myself looking toward the future with excitement, but terrified of what was to come in order for me to get there.

At this point in our life, everything is changing. Today, we celebrate our biggest accomplishment to date, high school graduation. We are different people than we were four years ago and our world looks very different today than it did back then. People you thought would be in your life forever may not be there anymore. You may have experienced loss or another devastation that changed how you view your world. People that you never imagined you would be friends with are now the ones that you drive around town with talking about everything imaginable. Life makes little sense, and as we grow up the less sense it will make.

The uncertainty that we are all fee ling today is a fee ling that never really goes away. The biggest challenge is how can we view uncertainty as a friend instead of a challenge? What seems like a very long time ago, I was given a gift on senior night that made me think about what is to come in our future. I was very emotional when I read the note that was included with the gift. At that point in time, I was terrified of the future and who I was going to become because I didn’t know what I wanted my life to look like. I have always been such an organized person that planned everything out to the very minute of my days. This time, I was scared because I still didn’t have a definite plan for my life yet. If you have ever wondered about the key I wear around my neck, no it’s not just a key that I wear or a key to my heart. This key is special because of the word that is engraved on the front. This word is embrace. At the time, I didn’t know how important this word would become in my life or in determining my future. Embrace means to take the future in with open arms and take whatever life throws at you. This key serves as a daily reminder for me to embrace everything life throws at me. You have already embraced

the uncertainty your future holds and taken every day one step at a time.

I wouldn’t feel right without thanking all of the people that have made this day and this accomplishment worthwhile. There are so many people that I want to thank but it is impossible to thank every individual person that has made this day possible. I want to thank all of the teachers, mentors, family, and friends that have believed in me and supported me throughout this process. I especially want to thank my parents for their endless love and support in everything that I do along with the many sacrifices that you both have made to allow me to be where I am.

Most of all, I want to thank God for allowing me to be here today and for the many blessings that I have been given during my time at Hoopeston Area High School.

We were born during the tragedy of 9/11 and we graduate in the midst of a global

pandemic. We are strong, resilient, and in-control of our own lives. We now have a choice as we close the biggest chapter in our lives. We can choose to remember our high school experience and how our senior year was taken from us. Or, we can choose to remember every little moment that was good and made us happy during that specific point in time. You may not remember that test you failed, the person that you are no longer close with, or the day you were late to school.

But we will remember our last homecoming pep rally, the best senior night basketball game, and when you sat with your friends in the parking lot in the mornings listening to your favorite songs and talking about life. We have no idea what our futures hold. We now know that life can change in the blink of an eye. It will throw you so much craziness and so much hurt that you will feel so defeated. Embracing the uncertainty of your life means taking the punches that life throws at you with grace. Stand back up and laugh uncertainty in the face and prove it wrong. If I am certain of anything, it is that we are stronger together than we ever will be alone. Today, I encourage you all to find the true meaning of what embrace really means to you. Embrace who you are and who you want to become. You are all capable of handling li fe’s curveballs. Whatever your idea of embracing the future is, I hope that we all will continue to remember who we are and where we came from to determine our paths. Congratulations Class of 2020, we made it because we are strong. Thank you.