It began as the most nerve-racking part of my teenage years and concluded just as quickly as my freshman self hoped it would. High School was a journey full of unexpected opportunities, experiences and remembrances that will last a lifetime. Nonetheless, as I take these intricate parts of the past four years into further consideration, they turn out to explain my journey thus far and create the backbone of who I am today.
I sped through the final weeks of high school and found myself emotionally unaware of the change that was yet to come. In a crazed mindset of completing AP exams, finals and last-minute research projects, I lacked both the lazy attitude of a senioritus-diagnosed student and the sensitive breakdowns of an emotionally attached student. It took a while for the distant idea that “I’m no longer in high school” to surface into my mind, but it eventually came and continues to make itself known now that I am, officially, an Antioch alumna.
So, here we go:
My dad insistently pulled his Jaguar convertible into the back entrance of the school that graduation Sunday, making a final impression of himself and embarrassing me as I wobbled out of the car in my lace-up heels and uncomfortably long robe. Following an hour and a half of frantic excitement as my so-called “school friends” and I snapped our final shots together as class of 2017, we lined up and headed to the stadium. We walked towards the field to find a shivering crowd of hundreds who were wishing more than ever that the ceremony was held inside the warm lodging of the main gym. As I, too, bore the harsh wind and tried to recover my hair and cap from the less than fortunate weather, I forced myself to forget about what I looked like and allow the traditional Pomp & Circumstance entrance music fill my ears. It wasn’t until I was sitting through the speeches of our outstanding class members, special faculty speaker, and most recognizable principal out there, that I began to truly reflect on my years as a high school student.
To start, I can’t say that they were the best four years of my life. Coming in as a naive 14-year old, I held high expectations for the four years that are so popularly framed on television. I thought that by the end of senior year, I would strut out the doors of ACHS with high confidence in myself, a consistent group of friends, the jaw-dropping body of a celebrity and an array of academic accomplishments. While some of these may have been attained as I walked home with my diploma in hand, I realized the irregular placement of my focus these past few years.
First of all, I put so much emphasis on what I wanted to get out of school that I lost what I did receive. It is only now that I reflect on the hours spent in this awkward, pre-adult phase of life and point out the areas of growth, learning experiences and relationships. Looking back and thinking about not only what I did, but what others did for me brings acknowledgement of what I am taking out of my overall high school experience.
For me, high school opened up a broad view of perspective that I brought into my everyday lifestyle. What I thought of myself freshman year was either validated and proved correct or contradicted as I began to truly understand my passions, interests, character and persona as a whole. By the time the homestretch of senior year came into play, I could easily trace these discoveries to the people whom I chose to spend time with. The wide range of students and faculty I met along the way helped shape who I am and continue to reinstate lessons that I lean onto today. Additionally, the opportunities I sought throughout high school reaped benefits that I may not have noticed then, but can so clearly view as instrumental to my life today.
While I view these opportunities and friends as important to my life, I have also come to realize that they are not my all in all.
After an emotional end to the year and inspiring graduation, many hold on to the friends they made these four years and are sad to let go of the relationships that sparked out of mere placement in a high school environment. In recognizing that I, too, am clinging to the friends surrounding me in my small-town community, I continue to understand the influence of those around me. It is also plainly evident that sorrow will come when we part from the one-way path of Antioch and place ourselves into one of many new trails found in the real world. Nevertheless, I continuously remind myself that the friends I made in high school are a part of that phase of life and are not all meant to follow me through the years to come. They are relationships I can hold on to in my heart, but need to let go of emotionally at some point.
In reflecting on my friendships, unforgettable experiences and accomplishments that came out of grades 9 through 12, I was no longer focusing on what I didn’t do, wasn’t a part of and failed to meet the standards of in high school. Instead, I let my graduation act as a persuading reminder of what I did accomplish in the four years leading into adulthood.
That mindset, the one I had while making final eye contact with teachers whose knowledge I utilize daily, while shaking the hand of my principal, role-model and friend for the last time, and while hugging my friends in congratulation of the successful commencement we made through high school, was a mindset I want to uphold in the years to come. It reminded me that no matter how low I put high school on the scale of life enjoyment, I took more from it than I could have ever expected. It may not have been fun all the time, but high school taught me more about myself than any other phase in life.
To finalize my remarks on graduation and entrance into adulthood, if my turn around high school brought about this quality of relationships, lessons and increased wisdom, I am more than ecstatic to step onto my college campus in the fall and take on the next chapter of life. There will be unfamiliar accommodations, adjustments to academic workload, new friends to be made and an undeniable opportunity for improvement, but I can’t wait to build on what has already started – the seeking of my true self.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.