There's nothing quite like your senior year of high school.
Seriously; I don't think any other time period in one's life ever matches the hope, thrill, and unpredictability of being seventeen and eighteen years old. The reasoning behind this is simple: It's the time when you're on top of the social hierarchy—and on top of the world, really—with your best friends who you've likely known since kindergarten. The time when you're old enough to drive, but young enough to still have a curfew. When your Friday nights alternate between going to football games, talking aimlessly in your best friend's kitchen about everything and nothing, and frequenting house parties in someone's basement. (Oh, the high school basement house parties; an entity in themselves: Watching two people with braces and acne aggressively kiss in front of a washing machine, while drinking a mixture of rum, whiskey, and beer, because you're an idiot, and awkwardly dancing to the blaring hip hop music that inevitably gets the neighbors to call the cops around midnight and make the whole thing a bust.)
The end of senior year, especially, is a highlight reel of memories that all start with a giggling, "Remember when...". For some reason, the last semester of high school resolves most high school drama. The cliques, feuds, and love triangles fade as everyone realizes that they're in the same grade striving for the same end goal: graduation. The different crowds and egos integrate as the artists, athletes, outcasts, and in-betweeners come together to plan senior prank, attend graduation practice, and say goodbye to meaningful teachers.
There's nothing quite like receiving the handshake and diploma that is everything you've worked for in the past twelve years and everything you will begin to work for from here on out.
The June afternoon that I graduated, everything and everyone was euphoric. Some of my classmates were determined to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, a few were set to enlist in the military, some already had jobs secured that they wished to work their way up in. Every cheesy card or well wish I received underlined and emphasized the possibility that I held in the palm of my hands. My friends and I excitedly buzzed about our futures, about college names and career choices and plans for September. When we threw our gold graduation caps in the air, our entire town cheering us on from the bleachers, we thought we were untouchable, but we were ticking time bombs.
Fast forward twelve and a half months later and the first year post-high school has been magical, tumultuous, amazing, and awful, all at the same time. We've lost touch, gained weight, and gotten "C" or "D"'s on tests and papers we've studied our asses off on. We've gotten internships and scholarships and we've gotten drunk; we've fallen in love and we've fallen on our faces, sometimes in that order. And for most of us, reality has set in as we've began to dip our toes in the dreaded "real world."
Already, I have watched so many friends alter their dreams. Friends who once had stars in their eyes and swore up and down that they were going to make an impact on the world. Friends who wanted to live in Paris and India and England, their lives a never ending passport after they left our town and never looked back. Friends who wanted to make astronomical amounts of money as surgeons or attorneys or businessmen. I, too, have held my breath at the reality that my own dreams may never fall into place exactly as I want them to.
We longed to rule the world or at least change it, and now, it seems like we're all too tired to even think about anything that isn't painfully mediocre. It's almost funny to think that we are so young, and we are so unprecedentedly intimidated at the idea of hard work. Some of us are working as hard as we can, but I think it is dawning on us that the things we want simply don't come to us on the first or second or even the fiftieth time that we try for them.
Sometimes, I long to go back to senior year and live there forever, in some sort of time warp. Or to graduation, on the football field, where I accepted my diploma, when the grass was wet from the rain the night before and my family was screaming from the sidelines. Because during that time in my life, everywhere I looked was promise, potential, and an eager set of eyes ready for the next step.
Now, we're all so scared. And I get it, I'm scared, too, but I'm not willing to start making compromises on the things that I want—at least, not yet. I want to live all over the world and learn new things and be new things, and I never want to settle for anything less than the dreams and aspirations I have now. I never want to let them falter or get side tracked, as hard as that might be.
So, to the Class Of 2015, or '14, or '13, remember that finishing high school is just the beginning. While we all may miss those four easy, carefree years from time to time, the years that we're in now are truly our primes, if we make them out to be. Maybe everything has been hard, grueling, and challenging since graduation, but this is the time to give it our all, not give up. Refocus, readjust, and never let your dreams die.