With the Turn of a Tassel
Green is not my color. Come to think of it, green is nobody’s color. Yet there I was, head to toe in dark green polyester, sitting with two hundred of my peers dressed just the same. It was hot and the kid next to me smelled funny. Despite feeling unsteady in heels, I had chosen to wear wedges. I would come to regret that.
The whole situation was kind of silly. Dramatic music played as we all proceeded through an auditorium of parents yelling at us to smile for the camera. They had paid top dollar for our education and were determined to bring home photographic evidence. Emotional yet funny speeches were read. We were told how much we were going to miss this place and just how exciting, and complicated, life was about to get. Diplomas were conferred. Each name read aloud was accompanied by cheers at varying volumes, despite the request to save applause until the end. With the turn of a tassel, we officially made it through high school.
We’d spent the last year stressing over endless college applications and then endless rounds of acceptances, rejections, and waitlists. Our frayed nerves gave way to excitement for the next four years. Faculty members jumped at every opportunity to offer words of wisdom before we left for “the real world,” but the ears of teenagers are allergic to wisdom. We were, after all, graduating from high school. Clearly, we already knew everything. Limits and curfews were tested more and more as the prospect of freedom took center stage. We were eighteen-year-olds with driver’s licenses and perpetual chips on our shoulders and we rarely apologized.
Then, in a few blinks, senior year was over.
We proceeded out of the auditorium into post-graduation hugs and so many pictures my cheeks get tired just thinking of it. Sports teams and AP classes scrambled to find everyone for group photos and few succeeded. Walking through the halls, graduates reminisced upon what were, at the time, the glory days. Everything was about to be different. But it wasn’t. Nothing was different. We may have just graduated, but we were still in high school. We still wore the identities we had crafted for ourselves over the past four years: the lax bro, the robotics captain, the prom queen, the valedictorian. At that moment, in that room, those titles still meant something.
High school didn’t end that day, or even that summer. Whether you wanted to get lunch, go hiking, or sneak vodka from your parents' liquor cabinets, high school friends were still the ones to receive the bored Bat-signal. We were stuck in a purgatory, fueled by the aforementioned liquor and this conspiracy theory that everything was going to change. We were still laughing when it did.
Then high school ended, for good, over and over again. It ended when my first friend left for college. It ended when I sat in my empty bedroom after my mom packed my life away into a university-bound minivan. It ended the first time I skipped a class to nap and nobody called my parents. It ended the first Tuesday night I went out to a bar. High school ended when I stayed up all night in the library writing a paper I had procrastinated all semester, and again, when I got a B- on it. It ended when more of the pictures on my walls were of college friends than high school ones. It ended the first time I got sick and had to go to the school infirmary, and I missed my mother more than I ever had before. High school ended when I came home for winter break, wasn’t invited to a party, and didn’t care. High school ended.
The switch was never exactly difficult. It just kind of happened. I keep waiting to feel like an adult. Teachers told me this was part of the transition too, but I’m still waiting. I live on my own nine months out of the year, and nobody spares the chance to welcome me to adulthood when life gets complicated. But I’ve recently decided not to let this get to me. I was taught how to make flash cards, not live in the real world. So I mess up sometimes and flash the Bat-signal at my parents, and that’s okay. I’m saving the whole “adult” part for the next time I’m wearing a silly gown and shoes I regret in a room that can be blinked away in seconds.