What spurred on the thought was the Senior Awards Assembly two days ago, where they hand out all the medals and cords and whatnot. It takes hours and it's boring. The same people win all the awards -- you know the type, who wear so many medals for music and student council and Honor Society and everything, that when they step up to the stage to receive the next award you can hear their medals jangling.
I was mentioned exactly three times. Two of those times were just being recognized for achievement in (*ahem*
Still, it's one more award than others got. Some people didn't receive anything at all. (
But the thought still surfaces: I am going to graduate. In less than two weeks, I am going to claim a piece of paper which will tell everyone I am sufficiently versed in English, Science, Math, and Social Studies to pursue a higher education. (Yes, it's necessary to capitalize those. If I believed anything school taught me, I would think they are the only important things in the entire world. They even had an entire section of the Awards Assembly dedicated to giving out awards for "excellence" and "achievement" in those four areas. And no, creative writing is apparently not considered an English elective, even though AP Statistics is considered a Math elective.) After four years of doubting myself, of mornings where I absolutely do not want to drag myself out of bed and do so anyways, of days where I feel as if I might vomit but head to school anyways, of endless rounds of homework and memorization in classes I do not care about, of every last little injustice I've felt, because I am too quiet to tell my lab partner to let me participate, too, or because of my apparent inability to operate in social surroundings...
After everything, I am finally leaving it. There is no guarantee I won't find it at college. In fact, I probably will. But that is months away. Right now I am leaving it. Maybe I'll encounter it in the workplace, if I have to work at the factory where my parents work, because I cannot, technically speaking, afford college. But I do not have a job yet. Right now, all of everything is finally laying to rest in the building in which it occurred.
And I don't want it to happen. I don't want to let go of the familiar maze of hallways, suppressing the tears when I do not get any awards even when I know it is technically my fault for being too quiet to join anything, the teachers who are nice and try to help us understand, even when I either already know it or do not care. I don't want to leave behind the awful boredom, the wandering thoughts which grasp the concept and then forget it next period, the exhaustion of having information of one subject rammed down my throat and then, in the space of seven minutes, get to another class to have information of another subject stuffed into my ears.
In a way, it's a sort of dilemma, a meeting of opposite forces in my heart: the desire to stay behind, to just remain in high school with the lunches with my friends, and the rare occasion I learn something I want to, and the way some of the teachers even try to encourage my own thinking and self-expression; and with letting go, leaving the good and bad behind, because I have been ready to do so for a long time now.
It's scary, to think I'll be graduating. I will have to go to college, where they'll actually let me study what I want to, but at a high cost and risk of debt; or I will have to join the workplace or the military, a mass of people even larger than the crowds at school, where even fewer people will know me or care. This world is full of possibility, of money and happiness and exploration and everything they never think to teach within the confines of a school building. A place where I am as unprepared and new at everything as a newborn, where I might as well be another seed on a dandelion head when someone makes a wish.
But it's exciting, in a nauseous mix at the pit of my stomach, to think that I will not be something to treated with condescension. Hopefully, no one will repeat the same thing in simplest terms for five minutes, just to make sure I get the point. There will be no homework besides working on a home. I have the chance to learn what I want to and hold a job I love to work on, even if it's a chance and not a guarantee. I will have a whole lifetime to spread a pair of wings I have been cobbling together, away from the eyes of kids smarter than me and more involved than me or less caring and less intelligent.
I am a smart girl. I received a recognition -- three of them -- for it, when others got nothing. I may not be dripping with medals and honors, with people praising my abilities and potential. I may be too quiet, too inclined to stare unprotesting when someone else does the work for me. But I can do many things I keep out of view of others, like hold whole worlds in my head and read over a hundred books a year, every year, and I can write essays about works of fiction that receive top marks. I get top marks on AP exams, which are college level before I am in college.
And now I can graduate, leave behind a place that has felt unhealthy to me for a long time. I am leaving behind friends, and good intentions, and the random everyday acts which sometimes helps me get through it. I am leaving behind bullies, and casting off the knowledge I never wanted to learn, not even if it is "good" for me, and all of those random everyday acts which grind me into dust and another face in the crowd.
Two weeks. Two weeks of nothing, of classes I am done caring about and final exams, three of which I don't have to and won't take. Graduation practice. And then the real thing, Saturday morning, June 7th. I'll be wearing the gold cord and my trivial little pins and badges, most all of them for being a good little girl and getting good grades in the "smart kid" classes. I'll be wearing a little black dress beneath my blue cap and gown, which isn't sexy or little, but knee-length and short-sleeved and still the most daring and the most formal outfit I have ever worn. And maybe, if they let me, I will be clutching a book as I climb the steps to the stage, trying to keep the one-size-too-large flats from falling off my feet while I accept a diploma.
My stomach has that nauseous mix again. I cannot tell you which force wins out, or which feeling will overwhelm the other. My heart pounds in its little cage -- or in its protective hiding spot -- and my hands shake, and I cannot stop my body from fidgeting or feeling sick when I so much as look at that cap and gown. But it won't be long until that is over, and a tether will have been cut -- the one that anchors me to an unhappy world. And maybe I carry that unhappy world inside of me, and maybe it won't feel better. But it's one less tie to such a place, to a place where I have no control over when I am allowed to go to the bathroom and what I learn.
And maybe, with letting go this anchor, I can stretch out a little, feel my nervous heartbeat and my shaking fingers, and I can tell myself that I have a chance now, a price to pay and a choice to make and maybe even a set of very good consequences for my future. That even while I am nervous and scared, there is something bigger, and better, and I'll be on my way to the version of me which I save for my daydreams.
I'll be on my way to a reality of my dreams, or a failure of them. But I have faith that I will allow the former to keep me happy, or to keep the latter from crushing me. Because I am a smart girl. I can get through four years of no control, over almost everything. So I can get through a lifetime with just a bit more freedom than I've ever been allowed.