This piece first appeared in the printed edition of The Herald Sun, 10th November 2020.

Everyone has a story to tell. For me, it feels just like yesterday when I was sitting my Year 12 exams, feeling excited for the year to finish but also anxious about what 2020 might hold.

I never would’ve guessed that I would still be in Bendigo – in fact, I was meant to be in Shanghai studying Mandarin on my gap year! But this year has been like no other, and it somehow both feels like it went by in a flash and like decades have gone by. I distinctly remember how nervous I was; how it felt like everything I was, and everything I will be, depended on me succeeding.

Before I go any further, let me tell you this: it can often feel like the whole world is on your shoulders, but life is more than your ATAR or how well you did in Year 12. Don’t get me wrong, it is really important to do your best! But there is a whole world beyond school. This is the start of the most exciting journey you’ll ever get to go on. The ATAR is not the most important thing that you’ll graduate with either. Resilience, time management, flexibility, friendships: all these things will carry you through the rest of your life.

And if any class has demonstrated these skills, it’s you, Class of 2020.

You’ve already achieved this, and your position on a bell curve doesn’t reflect your determination and grit to finish this marathon of a year. As you complete the last 100m of this race, look back and remember how far you’ve come.

But that doesn’t mean that the pressure or anxiety isn’t valid. For me, it really helped to have a support network. I kept my eye on the ‘real world’, through working with Victorian Student Representative Council and being a Youth Councillor, and realised that there’s more to life than school. My family and friends were so supportive and encouraging, and it helped me to know that every single Year 12 student was going through the same thing. We’ve heard this phrase numerous times this year, but we really are “in this together”.

Finally, I’d like to say a huge congratulations to every student that went from on-site school to remote learning (twice!), you are truly incredible. In particular, congratulations to the graduating class of 2020. You did it! No matter what happens, remember that you’ve been through what no other class has been through. And if you can persevere through this year, the possibilities are truly endless. Take it in your stride and write your own story.

Good luck for your exams!