It has been a long time since I’ve been to high school graduation. The last one was for my sister in 2005. But, tonight, my nephew graduated high school. Class of 2013, what?
I’ve noticed that, even though I did not think I ever would, I have started to consider high schoolers very young people. I think of them as children, and I sometimes underestimate them. Tonight however, not only did my nephew look like a proud young man with a tie on under his cap and gown, but also his fellow classmates seemed very mature. The main student speaker was articulate, delivering a passionate, funny and charismatic speech that seemed to motivate the students and move the parents. His maturity surprised me and I wondered if I was like that at his age.
From Pomp and Circumstance to the throwing of the caps in the air (which I do not think we were allowed to do at my high school graduation) I thought about high school. I tried to remember what it felt like to think that grades, social structure and the casting of the fall play were THE most important things in the world. I tried to remember how much I loved driving to Iowa City and going to Gabe’s to awkwardly dance to Emo music and then eat quesadillas at Panchero’s. I tried to remember feeling like I would never forget how it felt to be 17.
High school graduation is kind of amazing in that, from what I remember, not much has changed. The basic structure is pretty much the same. The speeches are probably all very similar and yet each student feels like their experience is unique. Their graduation, their choices, their paths are all different. It was both sad and hopeful, both scary and comforting to sit in the audience thinking all of these things and knowing that someday these graduating students would return to their high school, or one very like it, to watch their siblings and children and grandchildren go through the important rite of passage into the adult world. Or, more accurately, take a baby step into the adult world via college.