As we all lined up to make our entrance at the stadium (graduation was held on our district’s football field), I looked around at all of my classmates in the huge, baggy green gowns and saw a bunch of precocious 1st graders playing dress-up. But, of course, we were all mostly adults, finished with our compulsory education, and ready to begin the next phase of life. When did we grow up? And why don’t I feel like I’ve finished high school? There are certain milestones I can never imagine myself passing, like getting a driver’s license or graduating, yet here I am. It all feels very unreal–I think it’ll take me a long time to actually process the fact that I’ll never have to return to high school ever again. And so, another year has passed, another class has graduated. Here are some things that I noticed during the ceremony (other than how tiny we all looked):
Though this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, I realized how hilariously little I was involved in at school. Hearing everyone else’s list of school-sanctioned activities was eye-opening because even knowing that I participated in the most minimal of ways, I didn’t see until then how isolated I was for all four years of high school. It wasn’t that I didn’t have spare time; ballet was extremely time consuming, but I certainly had a few free moments. It must have just been that deep down, I didn’t want to get involved. That sounds totally taboo as far as application material goes, but honestly, I could care less about my less-than-stellar school activity resume (now). It did make me realize how incredibly lucky I was to get accepted into several schools with about 3 extracurriculars, though, and because I’m already in despite my horrific lack of participation, it doesn’t matter to me anymore. In a general sense, I think my apathy stemmed from a lack of identification with my high school. In a town full of die-hard football fans, I’ve never been particularly interested in being part of the “tradition.” Even though I’m still 2+ months away from orientation, I already feel an affinity toward Cornell; I’m proud when I tell people where I’m going, and I think that that will drive me to join more clubs, organizations, student groups, etc. I have a feeling that I’ll go about school in a very different way next year.
I was also baffled by the cyclical nature of it all. As a teacher, it must be strange to end every year with a graduation. Really, how do they manage to get excited about every class? Of course it’s an exciting time for those of us going through it, and I’m sure it’s exciting to watch your students move on, but the whole process is destined to be repeated again the very next year! Anticlimax? I’d think so. Teachers: I’m impressed by your continued interest. It must be one of those fulfilling things about teaching that few people other than teachers can understand. Or, maybe I’m just a heartless, unexcitable misanthrope. But anyways, thanks.
The biggest realization that I came to is that nobody should be ashamed of doing their own thing in high school. Besides, isn’t it more fun to live the individualistic life? When it comes down to it, you could be heavily involved in band or theatre or athletics or art and there will still be tons of people in your class that don’t recognize you (this may not apply for small schools). What I’ve gathered is that people don’t judge classmates they’ve never seen before–they’re merely surprised. That being said, who really cares if you weren’t part of anything major? If your school is anything like mine, the answer is nobody. They’re too busy worrying about themselves! It doesn’t actually matter. In all honesty, I never had many friends at school. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of people I genuinely liked. None of my best friends attended my high school or even lived within 20 minutes of it. Since I know that I do have a solid group of friends, I didn’t care much about making strong friendships at school. And is that really such a bad thing? Though some people will undoubtedly stay in touch, friends from high school have absolutely no impact on what kind of friends you’ll make in college. Basically: I’ll never see these chumps again, so I don’t really mind the fact that I had only loose connections.
All in all, I think I’m still in denial. It’ll be awhile before I can say “I graduated high school” without a trace of disbelief. It’s not that I didn’t think it would happen–I’ve always known I would graduate (which is why I feel strange accepting congratulations). It’s just that I didn’t ever think the day would come and I’m still in shock that it has passed now. Inside, I feel like I’m still new to the high school experience, even though I know I’ve grown and matured a great deal over the last four years. I don’t know that my age will ever catch up with me! Have you ever had a “This is where I am in life” moment? Because I feel like, to an extent, I’m just going through the motions right now, doing what’s expected. In years past, I’ve watched, with envy, my older friends graduate, but now that it’s my turn, it doesn’t even feel like it’s really happening.
Graduation is weird. Maybe I’ll feel different later.