By Beth Winze
“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” ~ J.R.R Tolkien The Hobbit
One of the best and worst things I emotionally go through is nostalgia. It is best when reminiscing with old friends on past memories, embarrassing and endearing alike. It is worse for incidences such as this morning. I officially took my last exam of high school today, an English in-class essay. Maybe it was because English has always been my favorite so it seemed only fitting that I end the last day of high school doing something I love. But that is what also makes it so bitterly sweet.
Waking up at 6:30 this morning for an 8:00 exam was not fun. But while I was getting ready it still had not fully sunk in that this was it. I can only compare it to planning a massive party. You work a long time organizing and making sure everything is in order. The food is prepared, the guest list is long, the tables are just right. The night of the party comes and goes, but than it’s over. And all those weeks of prepping and getting everything ready seem futile. It sure was a great party, but it leaves one hanging right after the high of busyness it started you in. High school has felt like a scramble all my four years; making sure my grades were passing, my essays were edited, my math tests accomplished, my science experiments not blown up. All of the work that piled on and on, summer breaks that were entirely too short, and winter months that never ended, all seem like a planned party gone too quickly.
I received an email last night from our youth group organizer telling us of summer plans. I mentally included myself in the entire list, but when I read down and saw it was for all rising 6th-12th graders I felt my heart do a little drop. I was not in that “rising” category anymore. My high school years are done, finished, nada, terminated, ceased, concluded – you get the idea. The Year of Graduation as I so fondly once referred to is here and it is whirring past me like a train with no brakes. Unfortunately, more often than not, I find myself the engineer of this brakeless train getting ready to crash headlong into my future.
Nostalgia will get the best of me. I want to hit the rewind button and go through it all again. To be stuck in a perpetual age of 16-18 (decidedly skipping the 14 and 15 age mark, because those were terrible years.). But no, as life moves on, so must I. So how do I even begin to step forward into a new lifestyle that terrifies me so deeply? Well first off, I think that tearing away from what I have known previously is important. I think this heartbreak and sadness I am feeling is what is going to allow me to move on from my current station. Those banners that say “Congratulations Class of ’14” must at some point be ripped out of their posts (figuratively). The pen I have been using to write the chapter of my life titled “High School” must be retired.
It is feels exactly like when someone hands me a new journal; clean pages that you do not want to mess up; brand new binding that you do not want to fold over too much. But at some point my pen will make contact with that first fresh page, and than it is easy. But I keep seeing that brand new journal on my desk refusing to open it. Terrified that I will mess up the first page of my new chapter titled “College”. But as all writers do, I must bravely take a new pen and risk it. I have to be certain of the uncertain. Instead of going backwards, or sideways as J.R.R. Tolkien refers to, I must take my sword (pen) and press down onto that new page. No matter how shaky my hands, no matter how fast my heart “pitter patters”, I must write this new chapter.
I am not, nor would have ever been, valedictorian. Homeschoolers do not have stuff like that. But this is my final high school speech. I refuse to give you the stereotypical, Hollywood ensured, high school speech in which tears run down faces, enemies kiss each others cheeks, and everyone breaks into song and dance while singing about the end of something old (too many references to High School Musical). High school has changed me though. I shan’t deny that simple truth. I am much more of a developed and mature person than I was in 9th grade. And for that I have thanks enough. I feel like I have a voice now (theoretically speaking). High school has given me a desire to write, the ability to conquer fears, a knowledge of things I never thought I would want to learn about, and friendships that are water tight. High school has also bestowed late nights, early mornings, little sleep, piles of homework, bad days and other such things I shudder at the thought of. But the most important thing is that high school has given me memories. Memories I will never forget. It has also given me opportunities to do things I would have never been able to do, and meet people I would have never been able to meet. As much as I dreaded high school at times, I survived and I would not trade a single day for anything else.
“She understands now what she, in all her worry, had forgotten. That even as she hesitates and wavers, even as she thinks too much and moves too cautiously, she doesn’t always have to get it right. It’s okay to look back, even as you move forward.” ~ Jennifer E. Smith, The Comeback Season
But the biggest thing high school has taught me is that it’s okay to mess up a page or two in your chapter. If the ink runs, work around it; if it smudges, re-write that part, and if it bleeds through the next page, work with it. “College” is going to have it’s blotted pages, it’s smears, and it’s torn edges but in the end, when I look back on that chapter someday I will realize the beauty in it. I am going to be okay. I am going to be able to flip to “High School” occasionally and reminisce on those memories. But I need to use those words, quotes, and memories to continue writing the next chapter in my life.
So here is to all the 2014 Graduates! Whether you are having troubles moving on or not, find encouragement in the fact that it’s okay to make mistakes. Do not be afraid to start a new chapter because of what your pen might do.
“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.” ~ Paulo Coelho, Brida