KENNEBUNK — Here in Maine and around the nation, many graduating high school seniors and their families are mourning everything they’ve seemingly lost, and won’t ever get back. Since the current pandemic has deprived them of much they had justifiably been looking forward to, like school-sponsored extracurricular activities, the prom and, for many, the ceremonial end of their required education days, their vexation is perfectly reasonable. But what if, rather than bemoaning the current situation, they consider the chances for personal growth it’s presenting?

The cancellation of spring sports and the senior play is understandably disappointing to those who’ve worked hard preparing for their last go-round on the field, track or stage. However, going forward there are many opportunities to continue pursuing athletic and/or dramatic involvement. No 18-year-old has begun to scratch the surface of his or her performing or athletic capabilities. True, the chance to publicly display those talents in high school is gone, but local theater troupes are always looking for young blood, and opportunities to continue athletic participation are plentiful. I enjoyed playing competitive basketball into my late 30s, and with a skill set far superior to the one I possessed at 18. Sure, the crowds at rec league and pickup games aren’t the same as they are in high school, but if one’s primary motivation for playing a sport is to have others watch them, well, they should probably find a new hobby.

Those disappointed over a prom-less spring should see opportunity rather than loss. Money that would have been frittered away on a dress, tux, photos, dinner, flowers, limo rides and other prom-related accoutrements can now be put toward something that’ll do more long-term good, like college tuition, improved personal transportation or a down payment on a place to live. Those who’ve already purchased a dress can save it for a different special occasion, or, better yet, find out how good it feels to donate it to someone less fortunate.

And 18-year-olds who really want a prom can, once social distancing mandates subside, arrange their own. After all, isn’t going out on the town with one’s significant other, some special friends or a particularly close group of individuals (and their dates, if they choose to bring one) more enjoyable and meaningful than spending a few hours packed into an overcrowded venue alongside other overdressed types, 90 percent of whom don’t know or care any more about the others in the room than those others do about them? 

For those agonizing over the likelihood that they and their childhood chums and schoolmates won’t ever get to be together as a group again, well, like all self-fulfilling prophecies, this one will come true if they believe it will. But despite living more than 250 miles from where 180 or so classmates and I graduated 45 years ago, I’ve maintained meaningful friendships with a special half-dozen or so. As for the others, I trust their memories of me, if any, are as pleasant and unharmful as mine are of them.

Here’s another perspective to consider: As years pass no modern group of graduates will ever bond as tightly together as the Class of 2020 will. Collectively they’ve experienced adversity no group of 18-year-olds has since World War II (though males who graduated during the Vietnam era may differ). As a result, their class reunions are likely to be more frequent and better attended than any before them. In fact, if it’s not too unprofessional to admit, I’d love to be invited to one of those get-togethers, starting in about 10 years or so. I’ll bet they’ll be great! And they’ll continue going on, festive as ever, even after their insensitive, prom-bashing teachers have long since vanished from the scene.

One final thought: If the current pandemic turns out to be the worst thing that ever happens to these grads-to-be, their lives are fated to be exceptionally charmed ones.

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