I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect words to describe how it feels to graduate from high school; it’s stirred shockingly complex emotions.
Before graduating: It felt like any other year end. The typical excitement at school being almost over, the slight sadness that I wouldn’t be seeing my freshman for a whole summer, the tiny bit of dread because there would be no escape for my occasionally irritating parent. I was fine, everything was normal. Except it wasn’t. There were no finals I was stressing about, there was sadness as I signed friends’ year books for the last time, there was that weird, pre-cry, lump stuck in the throat feeling as I said goodbye to my teachers. But for the most part, it felt normal.
Graduation practice: I was strangely irritated. I didn’t want to wake up early, it was summer break and there was family I wanted to spend time with. But I was grateful and excited because I could see my friend again. My friends who haven’t changed yet but who I know will throughout college. I signed across the room to my friend and texted others while we waited for practice to start. And it still felt normal, regular, like any other day.
Graduation: It was odd to see my teachers “out of their natural habitats” (my words exactly). But I said goodbye one last time. I was excited, smiling. There were a number of selfies and some last minute shoe advice to girls in their uncomfortable heels. I was nervous as I took my seat-afraid of falling on my face as I walked across the stage, or dropping my diploma, or tripping down the stairs. I was excited, my leg bounced as I cracked jokes (okay, attempted to crack jokes) with my classmates around me. I was impatient as we waited outside the auditorium, wishing that our cue would come quicker. Relieved and nervous when it was my time to walk down the hall. Elated when I heard the screaming of my family, embarrassed when my mom waved excitedly from across the room. Tense when I was told to stand and take my place in the line to receive my diploma. Then numb. Shaking my principle’s hand. Smiling as I received my diploma. Walked down the steps. Jubilation. I didn’t trip! I was in my seat. I opened the beautiful folder and there it was, my diploma. A wave of satisfaction then anticipation as the last of the names were called. Jubilation again as I held my tassel and moved it, right to left. Amused annoyance as some classmate flung his cap into the rafters.
Moments after graduation: Eager anticipation. There was a lot of hugging, congratulations, and even a few flowers. Then aching annoyance, cramping cheekbones, tight jaws, and rumbling stomachs as memories are captured in pictures. Chipotle for celebratory dinner, more congratulation by more people, creating a sense of pride. Laughter and funny stories exchanged over yummy food then tired.
After graduation: I feel older but not like I’ve gotten a year older, just emotionally older. It’s a baffling feeling. Has anyone ever felt that way? But other than that, life is the same. It feels like any other summer, it feels like any other day. Nothing has really changed but I feel different. I don’t know why specifically I feel different but something has changed.