I have one of those now.
An Alma Mater, I mean.
On June 1st, 2021, I became a high school graduate and an AP burnout.
Well, not exactly.
But for the next year I’m riding that wave, because most, if not all, of my time is my own now.
It always was, I suppose.
But that doesn’t mean that it felt like it.
That day was the end of a lot of things for me.
The end of a horrid high school experience. The end of many friendships (or at the very least, the beginnings of those ends.)
And the end of my childhood.
I won’t be eighteen for a couple of months, but that doesn’t mean that I’m a child anymore.
I’ve got a job, I’ve got a credit card (that I only kind of know the mechanisms of), and I’ve got a high school diploma.
The minute my name was called, and I walked across a small stage in front of my friends and family, a million and one things ended, and the rest of my life began.
It feels nice to say that with security. “The rest of my life.” A few years back, I didn’t think I would make it to graduation, let alone a “the rest of my life” bit. But I’m glad that I did, and that “the rest of my life” is the only thing that I have to live now. Not AP tests, or final exams, or horrible classmates that I fight with about things that don’t matter anymore.
At least not for the next year. For the next year, it is working on everything I couldn’t before, and becoming a legal adult, and going on trips and writing stories as often and whenever I want.
Before that happened, though, I made sure that I got the most out of what I was promised.
I don’t want to hang on to the losses of the pandemic for too long. My family and loved ones got out of it alive, and that’s all I could have ever asked for. Whatever everybody believes was taken from me, is of no concern anymore. Because from my view, I didn’t lose anything that I really and honestly care about or need.
I have an amazing family, kind friends, and you guys, who have stuck around despite my lacking ability to do the same. Whatever I “lost”, I simply reinvented, with the people I love most, who were hoping to do the same.
We didn’t get an in-person school prom, so our parents made prom re-invented happen.
(I even won prom queen.)
The school didn’t give us a grad night, so we bought tickets to our own.
(We went to Universal’s Grad Bash, and actually got through the rides we wanted to experience the most.)
We reinvented even more, and as the situation started to improve and the world endured, things started to open up. Restrictions loosened, and we were allowed the last few senior experiences that mattered most. At least, mattered most to me.
We were given our first and last senior-only school-hosted celebrations.
The first was Senior “Luau”, a three hour opportunity to see people you forgot existed over a year ago, for the very last time.
(It was the most awkward and wonderful thing in the world, and I don’t think I’ll feel such a strong mix of both again until my wedding day.)
Next but most definitely not least, was graduation.
I spent all of 2 hours getting ready, only to wipe myself clean and do the same 15-minute, every-day routine that I did when I was going to class. I was supposed to be there by 5:30 and got there at 5:50, without a tassel, and not knowing where or who anybody was, impatiently greeting anyone who came up in a way to say “remember me? Isn’t it so sad that we’ll never see one another again?”
I spoke to the people I’d be sitting next to for the whole ceremony, either never having met them or only knowing the version of them I met years ago. The conversations kept me upright, and I’ll be forever grateful for them.
It took a while for it all to set in. Even at rehearsal in the morning, even the hours sat on the field as everyone gave their speeches. It wasn’t until the wind blew my cap off-because I didn’t have time to pin it on- that I came to the realization that this was it.
All of the essays and the tests, the improv practices and the show rehearsals, the fights and the tears, the anxiety and the pure exhaustion from it all. This ceremony and a piece of paper that certifies me as a graduate is what it all added up to.
And I think it was kind of worth it.
To stand on that field with turf in my flats, the wind blowing us all to temperatures below freezing, and my family sitting on the track just a few feet away. It was reward enough for all of it.
I’m so lucky and so glad that I made it through; high school, a pandemic, my childhood. All of it.
It’s scary to think of what comes next. But it’s nice to know that something comes next.
Thanks a million times to my family, to my friends, to my teachers, and to all of you.
Thanks to me too, I guess. (The chords and the sashes were a nice touch.)
Kate (now a graduate)