Though this is the time of year for high school graduation ceremonies, there’s one question that never really gets asked: What does high school graduation actually mean? Every student has their own past experiences and their own futures ahead of them, so how can high school graduation possibly have the same meaning for everybody? And if it doesn’t mean the same thing for everybody, what does it mean?
Instead of trying to force some generalization, I’m going to use examples from friends and former students that I hope will help all of us to understand graduation and why it’s so important (names changed, etc.):
- Abdul was excited to finish high school so he could go to college and start figuring out his life.
- Bailey was excited to finish high school so she could move far away from her awful parents and do literally anything else.
- Cade was excited to leave high school because he was scheduled to head out to Marines boot camp in a month or so. He wanted to show his Marine father that he had what it takes to be a Marine, too.
- Deserae was sad about leaving high school because her parents said that she had to find a job and pay rent. She figured that she should have some time to have fun before that started.
- Eric didn’t much care about graduation, because he spent all of his time with his band anyway.
- Faith was excited about graduation because her family had worked together to ensure that she could afford to be the first one to attend college.
- Gallagher was excited about graduation because he would be the first person in his family to attend college, even without the support of his family.
- Hanako was scared about graduation because she hadn’t yet told her boyfriend that she was pregnant and didn’t know how her parents would react.
- Ian was blandly excited about graduation, mainly glad that summer had come so he could go to the beach.
- Jade was excited that she could go off to college and no longer have to hide her sexuality from her parents.
- Keith was happy that school was over so he could play games online all day long.
- Laila was glad that having a high school diploma would allow her to go from waitressing to a higher paid office job.
- Macon already had a part time office job and was glad that his diploma would earn him another $0.50/hr.
- Najwa spent most of her time volunteering with her church and was glad that graduation would give her more time to help others.
- Oscar liked to get drunk. Finishing high school meant that he had more time to get drunk.
- Paola liked to get drunk and decided to use graduation as a starting point to get sober.
- Quentin was excited that his dad would never again bug him about his high school grades.
- Rachelle was scared because she didn’t know whether she’d ever again have any friends once she went away to school.
- Salako was scared because he didn’t know whether he’d have any friends once they went away to school.
- Tami didn’t think much about graduation. She was taking it easy.
- Umberto wasn’t sure whether he really had much of a future and was considering harming himself.
- Victoria knew that Umberto was considering harming himself and made it her goal to keep him safe and get him through the hard time. She wished that graduation had never come.
- Walter didn’t know what to do. He was glad graduation had come because it would give him the driving force he needed to try something new.
- Xia was excited about going someplace where nobody knew her so she could reinvent herself.
- Yakub wasn’t excited about graduation, but was excited about going away to the same college as his girlfriend.
- Zaida really wished her boyfriend wouldn’t follow her to college.
Twenty six stories of twenty six people. All of them starting a new chapter in life. Whether you’re one of these people, or have a totally different story, I hope your graduation is a happy time for you.