Despite the fact that I have an entire year to go before I don a billowy robe and graduation cap, I am already experiencing bittersweet nostalgia toward my years of high school. Like many of my peers, I am absolutely and completely terrified of becoming a senior, and even more absolutely and completely terrified of what comes afterwards. There’s no other way to put it. After watching my high school’s graduation on June 8, where the seniors I loved and cherished accepted diplomas and waved and did their very best not to fall, the fact that I am going to be in their place in one year seems all too real. As the girl sitting next to me noted, graduation was “so close and yet so far.” To me, it feels stiflingly close.
For this graduation, I participated in Honor Escort, a group that has the honor of escorting the graduating seniors, metaphorically, to their futures. I, along with forty-five other juniors, dressed up in black clothing and carried out the duties I was given: leading the seniors to their chairs, standing in long lines to give everyone a high-five, passing out graduation booklets and handing each senior a flower. We led the seniors across the rather large football field, hands clasping flowers and cell phones and water bottles. As we walked, somehow we each independently noticed how very much the march felt like a funeral march, with the black dresses and uniform movements. Someone mentioned that it was like we were leading the seniors to their graves. It was all very solemn and melodramatic, despite screaming crowds and a light sky. In those moments as we led the fray, all we could think about was our impending march to our own futures.
But then, as we stood in two lines and handed out high-fives to the seniors who walked between us, we noticed something that changed our view of graduation, or at least I noticed something that changed mine. Everyone was smiling. And it wasn’t just fake smiling, like it wasn’t the I-know-there-are-a-lot-of-cameras-on-me-right-now-and-I-don’t-want-to-look-upset-even-though-I-am kind of smiling. It was real smiling. Smiling about going up on stage and accepting a diploma and forging a path. They were smiling; they were excited. So why wasn’t I?
I asked myself this, and then I came to realize that I was looking at high school through rose-colored glasses. It has been amazing, so far, but life doesn’t cease to be exciting after graduation. In fact, one can argue (and probably win the argument hands-down) that it gets even more so. There is everything to look forward to in the future, and being terrified of it solves nothing. The march is not a funeral march. It is a victory march.
Even though graduation feels as though it is very, very near, I’d like to think that I have no need to be afraid of it. Graduation is a stepping stone that leads to more stepping stones that make up the journey that is life. And life is a wild adventurous thing that in many ways cannot truly be lived while carrying a backpack full of binders and math homework and essays. High school is a wonderful experience, but the years ahead will be too.
This realization was carved into stone in my head when our school’s co-valedictorian mentioned something similar to it in his speech. He said something like this: “Some say life doesn’t start until after high school, and some say years in high school are the best years of your life. Whatever you make of it, make the best of it.” And that’s exactly what I plan to do.