As the class of 2015 reminisces on the last four years of high school, we remember many sleepless nights and unnecessary drama, yet many of us are met with tears of nostalgia and boughs of cheerful laughter. Using the term “high school” in the past tense and calling ourselves "alumni" seems like we're over it, but taking a stroll down memory lane inundates us with a whirlwind of emotions because these are the years that we will tell our kids about.
High school wasn't just a place, a tangible facility on a decently maintained campus; it was a four-year experience with really high highs and really low lows. There are things I remember from high school that give me nightmares, like the time I pulled my first all-nighter finishing a 16-page poetry paper or the time I wrote an eight-page honors biology lab report after I got my wisdom teeth removed. But “still I rise” — as poet Maya Angelou was quoted numerous times in my essay — and I completed my strenuous homework assignments.
On the other hand, there are things that I remember from high school that I'll always cherish as memories, like the time I walked 12 miles to camp out with my senior class or the time I placed in the top 10 in the women's 800-meter division. These moments of bonding, of personal success — that's what every graduate can take away from high school.
As freshmen, it was hard for us to call high school our “home” and embrace the culture of Friday night football games, mediocre cafeteria food, outlandish themed dances and awkward conversations. But in a few short months, we’ll be playing the same freshman game on a new turf; thus, officially starting the college chapter of our lives. Before fully immersing into the university scene, graduates are saying their last goodbyes to their high school days and high school self.
Starting college doesn't disregard the person we were for the last four years — it's a time for us to acknowledge what we learned from teachers, parents and peers and how our experiences shaped us into the people we are currently. Despite the dismal D’s earned on tests and crashed cars we drove back shamefully to our parents, high school encompassed our greatest feats and failures. Mistakes led to punishment, reflection and growth, but the consequences of not learning from one’s mistakes far outweighed the ones granted for the actual wrongdoing.
I learned how to forgive someone for hurting me rather than holding a grudge against them. I showed compassion because if high school was the place to make mistakes, then it was certainly the place to forgive yourself and others for making them as well.
Seeing myself grow in such an exceptional environment caused me to think that I would become emotional about finally letting go of high school, but I have yet to find myself crying over what I'm leaving behind. Exhaustion from my last finals and enthusiasm for summer consumed my thoughts during my last days of high school, but to my own surprise, I did not shed a single tear at graduation.
As I patiently waited for the waterworks to begin, I only felt pure joy and gratitude for the last four years I had spent there. I embraced my best friends who felt like the brothers and sisters I never had, as we toasted our high school era alla famiglia (meaning “to the family” in Italian). I wasn't leaving behind anything at all — everything I had embodied in high school, the lessons, discussions and manners, was inside of me and a part of me.
Leaving high school didn't feel like such a loss anymore because my high school was more than just a place. In four years, I had built a house in Mexico, ran cross country, started a novel, maintained a 3.9 GPA, found the greatest friend group, led four retreats and somehow passed calculus. I learned how to listen to others and feel their pain, let people into my own life and love everyone who came my way. I'm not a saint, but I know what it means to be human and how deeply someone can feel attachment. I thought I would never be able to leave high school, but I know that a part of me will always be a Crusader and all of me will always remember what I took away from high school.
Lead Image Credit: Mamo Gebrehiwot