With graduation about two weeks away, many of this year’s seniors have started to clean out their backpacks and say their goodbyes as they get ready to move on, into the next chapters of their lives. Although many of them have anticipated the end of high school for months, members of the class of 2012 are only now starting to realize what it really means to walk across that stage on the day of graduation.
Since long before the beginning of the school year, seniors have anxiously waited to be able to finally call themselves college students. What most of them didn’t start to think about until more recent weeks is that the final bell at the end of May represents the end of so much more than just high school. This year’s seniors only have a short time left before they say hello to independence and goodbye to the lives that they have become familiar with over the past eighteen years of their lives.
As a sophomore, I sometimes find myself thinking about the day when I will throw my graduation cap in the air and venture off to college. In that sense, I find it difficult to comprehend why so many seniors are hesitant to face the changes that await them in their near futures. But as a student who has become friends with some seniors and listened to their thoughts about the approaching graduation day, I can understand why so many seniors are reluctant to start their goodbyes.
One thing that this year’s seniors are most frightened of is the same thing that many of them crave: independence. College redefines independence; it introduces high school students to a world of freedom that is beyond anything they could imagine. This means more liberty to do whatever they want, with whomever they want to do it with, at whatever time they feel like doing it. But as all of us have learned through our years in high school, freedom has its price. Out of approximately 10,000
Montgomery County seniors graduating this year, all of them can expect to bid adieu to their parents keeping a schedule for them, waking them up in the morning, making their lunches, reminding them to study, and providing them with money to spend. The same goes with teachers; high school graduates will soon discover that college professors don’t write out the week’s homework for them, or put the notes up on Edline in case they missed a slide. As the class of 2012 prepares to celebrate their newfound independence, they are also starting to become aware of their newfound responsibilities and that is an understandably difficult concept to grasp.
Another aspect of graduating that is only starting to hit seniors now is that they are almost finished growing up. It’s one of those things that, as a child, you place into the file labeled “things that are so far off, I won’t need to worry about them for a long time.” Well, the time has come for seniors to start thinking about it. At age 18, the growing up process is just about over. These students have to answer the question that they have been asked thousands of times in their lives: What do you want to be when you grow up? Only this time, it’s for real. And as they ponder this question, search for roommates, and take virtual tours of their colleges, seniors also begin to absorb the concept of time. Even as a sophomore, I feel as though time has gone by uncontrollably fast, especially in more recent years. I can’t even imagine how a soon-to-be graduating senior feels about the childhood and teen years that went by at a million miles per hour, and that they will soon be putting behind them.
I would venture to guess that what scares seniors the most about graduating isn’t saying goodbye to their homes, schools, or childhoods; it’s saying goodbye to their friends. Many of them have spent the past four or more years of their lives building relationships with people who have become more like family than friends. They have spent weeks, months, and years together. They have laughed together and they have cried together. They have shared experiences and made memories that will be sure to last a lifetime. But packing up their cars and travelling miles away to college brings with it a terrifying uncertainty for groups of people who have become pals over the years. I can sympathize with many seniors’ fears that the friendships they have treasured for years will eventually fade away, and that promises to stay in touch will be forgotten as distance and time separates them from their high school classmates.
To the seniors who are just a few exams away from graduating, I know I haven’t been in your shoes yet, but I can imagine that leaving high school and everything you have become accustomed to is a scary thing. Everything will be brand new to you, from your homes to your friends, your diets, your schedules, and everything else around you. It’s more than starting a new chapter in your life; you’re basically starting a whole new book. And although it is important to recognize the changes that you will soon be faced with, I also hope that you will embrace them. New beginnings are sometimes difficult, but they bring with them new chances and new opportunities to harness the potential you have and accomplish all the goals that you have set and will continue to set for yourselves.
I believe that the responsibilities that you are going to take on in the upcoming years will adequately prepare you for the life you have ahead of you. Just because you are leaving behind your childhood doesn’t mean that you have to leave behind the memories that you made throughout your entire life. And great friendships have been known to endure great distances. I hope that all of you will go on to lead successful lives after your diplomas are collected and your hats are thrown at graduation. As you prepare to say your goodbyes, I hope that you all look with excitement towards the future and that you never forget the road back home.