There’s nothing like a trip back home to make you nostalgic for the past.
As I was driving by my high school, it struck me that I hadn’t walked through those all-too-familiar doors for nearly half a year. It’s the longest I’ve gone without walking inside, without grappling with my unyielding locker, without being attacked in the hallways with a fierce group hug from my friends. All of those unique daily occurrences and the comforting structure of a normal high-school routine, gone in a poof. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it until I remembered.
In a stroke of sentimentality, my friends and I decided to make the typical “college students who are bored on break” visit to our high school. However, it didn’t feel that casual to me. Before college, high school had been the best time of my life, full of gleeful ups and harrowing downs that culminated into fantastic stories. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect upon returning. After being away for so long, there were a few things I had never been able to see before, a different perspective on what high school really is.
1. It’s really small.
This didn’t come as much of a surprise, but it was still unnerving to realize how compact everything was. After experiencing the vastness of a Big 10 campus, I couldn’t believe that so much of my life had taken place in a single building. It’s funny, though, how my high school had never felt small while I was attending it. It didn’t need to be any bigger; everything had fit so neatly within those walls.
2. Everything is scarily familiar, but not.
My feet remembered the building better than my eyes did. Walking through the hallways evoked four years’ worth of flashbacks as I recalled the constant movement to classes, not unlike a commute to work; I simply couldn’t get lost in the school. However, that only made the small differences stick out even more, the new posters and classrooms throwing me off kilter.
High school won’t be the same as you left it. You aren’t growing with the school anymore; it continued on smoothly without you. Which leads to the next point:
3. You’re not the boss of the school anymore.
The greatest part about senior year was how much weight my opinion held. It simply comes with knowing all of the teachers on campus and becoming the leader in various extracurriculars. In the 2014-15 school year, everything my grade did was the unofficial, unquestionable law.
All of that was stripped away when I graduated. For some unknown reason, we all thought that our high schools would come to a standstill upon our departure, but that’s simply not the case. The former juniors were now running the school, admittedly doing a better job than my grade had done. Life goes on with or without you, and it’s disconcerting to realize—but also slightly comforting. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ve been forgotten.
4. You can’t predict how people will remember you.
Even after half a year’s absence, people will still remember your face. You may feel like a completely different person, a (somewhat) more mature and sophisticated version of yourself, but people see what they want to see. Some of my teachers now see me as a person whom they can be honest with, instead of a student that needs to be graded. They yielded the most interesting conversations about the most random subjects, reminding me that while they will never stop being my teacher, I can finally get to know them as a person.
Other teachers, however, will never see me as anything other than a (former) student. These were the awkward interactions that grew stagnant after the standard “How do you like college?” greeting. They’re living their own busy lives and can’t bothered to keep up with yours—and that’s okay. Some people are simply not meant to be a part of your life after you move on.
5. You do miss it, more than you’re willing to admit.
Every classroom visit brought back a certain memory that I didn’t even know I remembered. Chipped clarinet reeds from pep band, the pungent scent of expo markers from calculus, and the deafening hubbub from passing time all pointed to a simpler time, where life was far more straightforward. Gliding to classes, hanging out with friends during lunch, after school extracurriculars—everything had an answer, everything had an end goal. I miss the structure. I miss the security of being looked after by peers and teachers alike. Some days, I wish I could turn back the clock and better appreciate those moments, now armed with the foresight that those years wouldn’t last forever.
6. Yet you are very, very glad to be at college.
My high school was a safe space for me to grow during my rambunctious adolescent years, and I will never be able to adequately thank everyone who made me who I am today.
No matter how good or bad your high school experience was, it ultimately changed you for good. There will always be that small part missing from your life, the part you left behind when you received your diploma.
But I can’t go back. And even if I could, I don’t think I’d ever want to. My time there is done; I entered as an ugly duckling and emerged a swan. High school did what it was supposed to do: prepare me for the future.
This is it. The future of going to college has become a reality, and I can’t imagine going back. Visiting my old high school helped me fully realize that I’m a college student, all grown up and ready to take on the world. I just needed to say my proper goodbyes.
Thank you, Century High School—and good luck.
Lead Image Credit: Flickr