Graduate reflects on the years passed and the years ahead


I remember my first day of kindergarten. My teacher was handing out cookies in front of the door, and I took a chocolate chip one. Her name was Ms. Sanchez. I noticed a long bookshelf against the classroom wall and decided I was going to like school.

I remember my first day of sixth grade. I waited anxiously for my best friend to appear so we could cross the street and walk through the front doors together because, frankly, the thought of doing any of it alone was terrifying. I was wearing knee high socks and red converse. I remembered that there was no recess in middle school and decided that I was going to have to make it work.

I remember my first day of freshman year. I ran to my classes- no, sprinted- and had a backpack that was far too weighed down for so early in the year, and especially for someone so small. Everyone around me was very large and loud and smelly (they still are). I decided that this was going to be more work than I had previously thought. But I was ready for it.

Flash forward four years later, and high school is almost over.

Hanging on a dining room chair are my scarlet red graduation robes and a shimmering gold pair of NHS cords. My cat keeps batting the fringed edges that fall down so enticingly. I’m trying to get her to stop, with minimal success.

High school is almost over.

I run through a list of the goodbyes I’ve said and feel a twinge of regret that I never asked anyone to sign my yearbook. I rationalized it by telling myself that if someone had something important to say to me in these final days, they would say it.

High school is almost over.

Every step through the halls is closer to the last, to the end, to the conclusion of a chapter of my life that has honestly changed me in ways I never thought possible.

High school is almost over.

Now I’m memorizing faces and voices, keeping them alive in the scrapbook I’ve been compiling inside my head. It’s so I can enjoy a nice memory five or ten years from now, when old friends become anecdotes recounted at a dinner party or to a new boyfriend.

High school is almost over.

I’m planning my dorm room, picking out my wardrobe and switching out duvets to see if I like this color or that pattern better. What should I put on the walls? What pictures do I want filling up my blank white slate, defining the last four years of my life? It’s come down to shoes and blouses and trinkets, this handbag or that one; a new laptop, for the countless papers I’ll soon be writing. Books! I need to read more books this summer! I’m an English major, surely they’ll expect me to read Anna Karenina by first semester. I’m not worried- it’s nothing I couldn’t handle in high school.

But now high school is almost over.

So far, no one has asked me what my biggest takeaway from high school has been, and I’m so grateful for that because I don’t have an answer. High school is an unexplainable conundrum. You meet people and you lose people. You start to get a sense of who you are only to realize that you still don’t understand. You are told to grow up; you are told to stay young. You are given a voice only to be shown that it does not make a difference. As Oprah might say, “What is the truth?”

The truth, as I have come to realize, has never been an absolute and has never applied to anyone save myself. High school has no definition. It is simply a place of learning, whether that learning comes from a textbook or from something deeper, something that can never be slapped on a notecard and tested. High school taught me who I am. High school helped me find my people, people who love me unconditionally. High school gave me grief but also stood by me through sorrow; high school dealt with the bullies and the heroes. I have been told, as well as shown (hello classic 80’s movies!) throughout my life that high school is a series of predictable moments with predictable people. That could not be further from the truth.

The truth is, there is no truth. High school is simply a large dirty building where hundreds of extraordinary and unique teenagers come together to grow up and figure out who they are. This is where we come to become our true selves. Sure, I can’t speak for everybody. I know some societal pressures keep people from viewing their high school experience in the same light that I have. But we’re so, so lucky. We have knowledge. We have each other. We have bonded over experiences that no one besides us will ever understand. We all ran the obstacle course that is Bellaire, and we finally get to cross the finish line. We’ll go through life together, always connected by one thing: we’re Cardinals, now and forever.

Yes, I know high school is almost over. But I also know I can’t wait for the rest of my life to unfold. If going through high school taught me anything, I know that what lies ahead will be one unpredictable, confusing, amusing, amazing ride.