“Dear 2020, I think we should break up.” Surely Grade 10 student Elizabeth speaks for many in a prose poem that earned her First Prize from the Conference of Independent Teachers of English (CITE). Her work was selected from the entries of more than 90 students from 20 independent schools.
“At the start of the lockdown, I was so excited to use this time for my dreams and aspirations, but it felt like it went by in a flash,” says Elizabeth, “and looking back, I could barely recall what I had done day by day. I wrote this prose poem to capture this sense of regret over wasted opportunities and how it has helped me grow as a person.”
This year has got off to a good start, however, for Elizabeth. In addition to news of her CITE prize, she just received an Honourable Mention from the New York-based Alliance for Young Artists and Writers’ 2021 Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards’ Region-at-Large Program for her science-fiction short story, "Light of the World." As America’s longest-running recognition program for creative teens, these awards have recognized some of the country’s most celebrated artists when they were teenagers, including Andy Warhol, Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates.
“On behalf of the English department, I want to extend my congratulations to Elizabeth,” says her English teacher Marc Labriola. Referring to her “Dear 2020” prose poem, he notes, “She has written the letter that perhaps we’ve all been trying to write.”
Labriola, who is also a novelist himself, describes the value of creative writing in general. “I find that Elizabeth’s words can help us better recognize those times when our own thoughts are perhaps actually poems gathering themselves at the edges of our imagination. Creative writing in the English program helps to show the innumerable possibilities of language.”
I think we should break up.
I’d like to say it’s not you, it’s me, but it’s honestly just you. You’re clingy, possessive, locking me away from my friends. But I guess you freed me too; you pooled time at my feet like cascading jewels—you made me rich with opportunity, wealthy with freedom. You gave me what I’ve always craved in spades—time I’d never had. And I grew drunk on the thrill of spending.
Life’s swung back into normalcy, but I’d gotten used to your slow, loping rhythm and now scramble to keep up. Regulations by which I lived have eroded away since you sauntered into my life. I hate you for that. I blame you, even as I stare down at my hands and watch the sands of time slip through my fingers. I stare and remember how carelessly I’d chosen to spend.
So… it’s you, but maybe it’s me too. You were suffocating, intoxicating, a pain in the ass. You were Opportunity; I was Sloth.
I was drawn to you because you let me be complacent. You murmured sweet nothings in my ear, and I let myself get swept off my feet, carried along by the currents of life. I can see that now, and I’ll be damned if I let myself stay a passenger in my own body. I may no longer be rich with time, but now I know how to save.
So, thanks for everything. Let’s never meet again.