To the Class of 2014

I graduated from high school 10 years ago today.  I went to a very small school in a town where everybody knew each other.  The year we left was particularly significant, because only a few months before, the newly elected School Board

I graduated from high school 10 years ago today.  I went to a very small school in a town where everybody knew each other.  The year we left was particularly significant, because only a few months before, the newly elected School Board decided to look into merging with another district. I probably shouldn’t reopen old wounds or bore anyone else with all the details, but it was an extremely controversial issue, and the effects it had on my class were made very clear during the ceremony and the speeches.

It’s hard to believe it was really 10 years ago. In some ways it doesn’t feel like it was that long, but in other ways it was a completely different lifetime (and has been for awhile). It was amazing that on that day, nothing else mattered. It wasn’t important that we were considered one of the “bad” schools, or that we didn’t have winning sports teams or offer AP credits. All that mattered was that we were 17 years old with the whole world in front of us and able to do anything we wanted; nothing was standing in our way. Of course we promised each other that we would always come back, and that we would keep in touch and stay friends, and I do believe that we truly meant every word, and really thought we would do it. After everything that had happened over the last few months, if any class truly would “stay together,” it would have been ours.

And yet things changed. We moved on from our small school and teachers who knew of our reputations before we even became their students. It almost seemed like as soon as we left, the real world of jobs, bills, loans, marriage, children, and even death hit us. And of course, even though we kept going back for Homecoming and Thanksgiving Day football games for a few years, eventually we came to know fewer and fewer people, and stopped going altogether. I think the time when it really hit me that I had moved on was the last year I went back for a Thanksgiving game. I saw somebody who I knew and talked to, but we were never really „friends,“ and our paths were brought together only because the school was so small and we didn’t have much of a choice. That last time though, we were separate people, and nothing that had happened before mattered. We may not forget our experiences, but we can move on.

So to the graduating class from my high school, and all graduates, enjoy your moment. When you leave, things will change. They may not change immediately, but at some point you will look back and realize you aren’t the same person you were the day you graduated from high school. For those who go to small schools it can be tough: sometimes it feels like you almost have to justify your school’s existence (that’s how it was to me anyway), and you feel more pressured to stay attached. But it is okay to leave, it’s okay to grow apart, and leaving does not, in any way, take away from what you gained while you were there. It won’t be easy, and there will be moments where you may start to regret some of the choices you’ve made, but somehow you will succeed. And if you make the most of your last few days in high school, you will be able to look back years later and happily remember these moments in your lives.

Happy 10 year anniversary to the class of 2004, and congratulations to the class of 2014.

 

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