“10…9…8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3…2…1!”
“10…9…8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3…2…1!”
The last bell of senior year goes off, followed by a chorus of cheers and whoops from the class of 2019. It’s a mess of tears, laughter, and breathless cries of “we did it!” as the familiar tune of the Sweet Caroline anthem plays us out of four long, exhausting high school years.
I look around one last time at the people I have grown up with for the past seven years. It’s not hitting me quite yet that life is about to change so drastically for every single one of us. It didn’t hit when I saw last year’s graduating class go through this same ritual, nor did it the year before that, or even before that. I always imagined it would be now, in this moment, that the collective realization would strike us speechless. But it doesn’t feel like that. I suppose it won’t yet, not until I’m looking back at these memories four summers from now, reminiscing over old friendships and the walls I used to call home.
And this moment. I’ll never forget this singular, loud, excruciating moment.
As we slowly resurface on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic and the almost two-year “time freeze” it imposed on society, there seem to be a lot of buzzwords floating around like “return to normal” or “back to how things used to be.” We’re now beginning to see the implications of such a return and uncover some of the complications that we may not have foreseen.
I don’t remember hearing of a graduating class before mine that didn’t participate in that jovial, last day ritual. Every year that I got to witness it, there were differences and modifications, but the end result was always the same: the graduating class gathered in their beloved lounge on the last day of classes, counting down the last ten seconds until the final bell rang. True to tradition, our own class followed suit, as we expected every class after us to do. We never saw an alternative.
Herricks High School’s class of 2020 did not get the opportunity to carry out this beloved tradition; nor did the class of 2021.
My sister, three years younger than I was, can still recall as a freshman watching my class count down to that last bell in 2019. When June of 2022 rolled around, I waited at home on her last day, expecting to hear about her own version of this bittersweet milestone.
But her version never happened. As she tells it, her grade simply did not do it.
Maybe half of the grade hadn’t even seen the tradition play out three years ago. Maybe those who did forgot of its existence. Whatever the reason, listening to my sister talk made me wonder somberly: was this tradition lost forever?
After all, as most traditions work, we learned from those before us. But with nothing to observe, would the next graduating class even know about this tradition, let alone others? Would they realize all the things that they never would experience because they never learned of them?
It doesn’t stop at high school. As a twenty-one-year-old just dipping her toes in the sea of corporate life, I find myself wondering: What workplace traditions may I be missing out on? What workplace nuances got left behind when everyone packed up their offices in a frenzy in March of 2020? What is it like to physically visit your boss’ desk for two minutes? What exchanged glances across the office or inside jokes will I never get to “watch and learn?” How does happy hour even work with your colleagues?
And with an odd mishmash of employees who are cautiously beginning to return to in-person work and employees who have permanently set up camp in the comfort of their homes, how can I – or anyone else in this up-and-coming generation of the workforce – reasonably expect to learn all the ins, outs, and in betweens of the office?
Do we even want to?
Because all this talk of drifting away from the old brings in a whole other topic of discussion: drifting towards the new. Will we, as the new generation of employees, seek to dig deeper into office roots to uncover the subtle traditions and conventions of years past? Or will we abandon these ideas altogether and brainstorm new and innovative traditions of our own? And if we choose the latter – leaving old rituals to gather dust in the bottom drawers of our supply closets – do we risk resentment from long standing employees who crave, as we hear in the midst of the buzz, a return to their idea of normal?
Stony Brook University
Vineeta Abraham is a rising senior at Stony Brook majoring in Psychology with a minor in Creative Writing. She is also a lover of music, sunsets, food, dogs, and meeting new people whenever possible. Vineeta is an intern in the Human Resources department at Macmillan.
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