The Finale

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High School Graduation came in the same manner one falls asleep: slowly, and then all at once. While this analogy is more commonly related to falling in love, it’s also a proper analogy for the past eighteen years of my life.

High school graduation has always been eternities away. Kindergarten ended without high school on my mind at all. I finished 4th grade with apprehensiveness towards the middle school homework load, and I ended 7th grade with the frustration of a desire to be older, which to me meant freer and cooler. When the first day of 9th grade came around (it had felt like eternities already), graduation was a far-off fantasy. I wasn’t even sure it would ever be real. It was the Happily Ever After, the grand ending, and the finale.

Yet, somehow, in what seems like a matter of seconds, my schooling career has come and gone, faster than I could say the ABC’s. On the day of my Graduation, I was overcome with this idea that all my childhood was behind me, and had come and gone in a whirlwind that I never could’ve anticipated.

It wasn’t really just a graduation from a school I had known and loved for four years. It was a graduation from the only things I’d ever really known. It marked the end of living at home, of the familiar schedule of 8am-3pm school every day. I graduated from the last of my childhood, whatever pieces were left.

I would’ve been overcome by the sadness of so many endings, but luckily all of my family was there to distract me, and even made it so that I didn’t see much of the sadness in it at all. My cousins, sister, aunts, and grandparents came rolling in, some from states away, because no one wanted to miss my finale. These are all the people that I love most in the world. I always think that what most people call an “immediate” family extends beyond the people who live in my house, but through my cousins and grandparents and aunts that were mothers to me.

Friday afternoon, the day of my Graduation, my cousins, my sister, and I got ready together. Me in my long white dress, them in their sundresses. We curled our hair, sung at the top of our lungs, and laughed tremendously, as we always do. I asked my sister to help me with my hair and it immediately struck me that four years ago, we were in this situation, but the roles were reversed.

My sister was getting ready for her High School Graduation. Sitting in the bathroom we shared, she sat on the toilet lid, wondering what she should do to her hair. Hair is one of the most important aspects of the art of getting ready; it makes or breaks the look. People underestimate the power of a good hair day, but in this family, we certainly understand it. I told her that I could blow-dry her hair, and my sister, on the day that would be photographed and remembered forever, allowed an unsure eighth-grade preteen to do her hair, without any reservations. It sounds crazy now, but then again, she was always like that.

I don’t know if that’s because she knew that I valued her opinion above anyone else’s, or if she wanted to please me simply because I was her little sister. Either way, I will never forget that my big sister let me do her hair for her graduation. I’ll never forget standing over her in our bathroom, unsure of what I was doing, but wanting so much to please her.

But now, the roles were reversed, and I was in my long white dress. But I still valued her opinion more than anyone else’s. 

What I’ll remember about this “finale” for the rest of my life, is not that my feet really hurt or that I got really hot on stage or felt awkward walking to receive my diploma. I probably won’t even remember the food that was served at the dinner after, or the music that played. But I will always remember the people that came, the family that had drove an hour or six hours away just to see me sit onstage for 45 minutes.

These were the people who had loved me when I wasn’t lovable, saw me through my birth and every birthday since. The people who had cared about every detail of my life since my mom first announced she was pregnant. They were there for my first day of preschool, for every dance recital, waiting anxiously by their cell phones for pictures during every Prom. Fittingly enough, they were there for this too.

Graduation really isn’t about me at all. It’s about celebrating the passing of time with the people who’ve seen me pass it. Graduating isn’t an end or a finale at all. It’s the commencement and start of a new life I’ll share with them, with new first days and new dance recitals, new pictures for me to send them. It’s just the beginning.

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