“Goodbye to the life we knew. One last long embrace. Let go and walk on through.” – Bryan Kienlen
There are so many different sounds that resonate during this time of the year. One of the most resonating noises is something that reverberates through the hearts and mind of everyone who hears its sound. Cheers, hands clapping, and feet stomping under the gaze of friends, family and authority figures. All of these things happen on graduation day.
Ten years before I even sat down with the thought of writing what you’re reading now, I was just like every other potential high school graduate; standing in line with a group of people I had grown to know and either love or feel indifferent about for the past four years. I remember the day so clearly. Standing in the Siegel Center, slightly sweating under the bright lights with my cape and gown on. Though I could tell the crowd around me was cheering, the room felt silent. In front, behind and around me were people who possibly felt the same way I did at that very moment. But the reality of what was about to happen to us perfectly reflected that moment – the moment a lot of us realized we’d probably never see each again.
The weeks leading up to my graduation day were somewhat tumultuous and disappointing. I really thought my senior prom experience (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) would be the most stressful moments of my high school experience that had nothing to do with grades. By the last week of my life as a grade school student, I pondered what the future had in store for me. The sheer grandeur of the world flickered before my eyes, as hopes and dreams danced in my head. Yet, something deep inside of me felt sad.
As the week progressed, I put on a happy face even though bad news and revelations were coming at me left and right. My hope that my grandmother would be able to come to my graduation didn’t pan out as planned. My grandma’s deteriorating health just wasn’t made for the day my family would be involved in.
During the final week, the seniors were pretty much given carte blanche to be as lackadaisical as they wanted. During the final “senior day” of the school year (a day were seniors only had to attend half of the school day) we seniors were treated to a cookout near the school’s track and front parking lot. Between hotdogs, I made a trip to my Spanish class to interact with the new friendships I had forged with a few underclassmen. Hearing everyone in the class say it hadn’t been the same without me warmed my heart, but also reinforced the sense of dread I had for walking the aisle a few days later.
I returned to the cookout to discover a girl I had a crush on since the tenth grade was by herself. Knowing it was now or never, I decided to strike up a real conversation with her. No more small talk! I came to realize the attraction was purely superficial. We had little to nothing in common, and her inability to talk about anything remotely interesting or intelligent caused me to bring an end to our conversation with a half-hearted hug and best wishes if we didn’t get a chance to talk during graduation day. Her genuine lacking of personality made me wonder how much she would grow during her post-high school life, if at all.
And as I walked away, I soon understood what was starting to slip away in my life – its very structure. For the past thirteen years of my existence, my life was basically mapped out for me. With high school graduation, the way my life worked would change forever. Most of the people in my life would drift away. I accepted my diploma on graduation day with the knowledge, for better or worse, my life would never be the same.
Usually I end my life stories with some kind of message or lesson. I don’t think I have one. This is just my experience dealing with one of the most life-altering moments a young individual is supposed to go through. For me, graduation day represents a time where the world seemed like it was my oyster, but time and life’s circumstances changed a lot of my plans. Yet, I type this with a happy heart.
Though there are dreams and goals I have yet to complete, I know that in these past ten years I’ve lived. I’ve witnessed tragedies, deaths, and general soul-crushing moments. But I’ve also accomplished things I never imagined ten years ago. I’ve supported family and friends when they had no one else. I’m proud of the person I’ve been blessed to become.
I think about myself in 2003, and wonder if he’d be happy how we turned out. Not knowing what was around the corner, I think he’d be a little shocked about not only the circumstances, but also the person those same circumstances molded.
I guess there is a lesson when I think about it. Life is change. Life is fear. Life is progress. Don’t be afraid of life.