The Lesson I Learned on Graduation Day

The Lesson I Learned on Graduation Day

I gained more than just my diploma on graduation day.


Each day we encounter experiences that shape who we are. Whether they are for good or bad, these are lessons that ultimately lead our next decision in life. This year, my graduation day taught me one of the most valuable lessons I've learned, providing me with a forward-looking attitude as I moved through 2018 and now onto 2019.

On June 1st, 2018, I stood alongside nearly 660 of my classmates anxiously waiting to turn our tassels. With nothing else to do, I fidgeted with my gown for nearly 2 hours before finally getting the chance to walk across that stage. After my 5 seconds of fame, I returned to my seat with the same tiresome attitude.

"Can this be over already?"

I heard the crowd of parents mumble beside me. As the ceremony continued, the crowd anxiously grew louder. Students' last names from "M" onward were nearly muted out by the disturbing amount of side conversation that echoed the room. Graduation ceremonies are often deemed as unnecessarily long, but for the kid with the last name "Zimmerman", it feels even longer. Although I was sure to make the most of my walk across the stage, I failed to recognize the importance of all the other special moments that composed the ceremony.

Most parents anxiously await their child's name to be called, yet forget to give the recognition to everyone else who succeeded alongside them. The student's name who was called 3 people before your child may have been a first generation college student in their family, the 655th name to be called may have experienced a tragedy during the year, yet still excelled to receive their diploma, and the child's name who could not be heard because your side conversation, may have been going on to serve in our armed forces.

It was not until I watched the heartfelt graduation ceremony of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that I realized I had taken graduation day for granted. The parents who attended my ceremony were lucky to watch their children obtain their own diploma, the teachers who volunteered their time to organize the event were lucky to be alongside all of their colleagues, and the students who sat with empty chairs next to them were lucky that the non-attending students had the option of being there. While it is important to embrace our moment, it is just important to recognize that it is someone else's moment too. Too often we centralize significant events around ourselves, but if graduation day taught me anything, it was the importance of embracing a moment with everyone that you are sharing it with.

Rather than waiting for January 1st to loop around to start "seizing every moment", I decided to start right then and there. From that day forward, I made sure to congratulate all my friends who earned their diploma. I attended graduation parties nearly every other day for two weeks but treated each one with the same significance as my own. It shouldn't have taken me regretting my own graduation day to alter my mentality, but unfortunately, it did. The important thing is that I now recognize the importance of acknowledging others' achievements just as much as myself. While every day may not be the brightest or the most fulfilled to me, someone out there had the best day of their life, and if I was lucky enough to watch the sun rise and set, then I'd say I had a pretty darn good day as well.

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When You Give A Girl A Pair Of Cleats

It's more than a pair of shoes.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her far more than a new pair of shoes. You are giving her new friends and new challenges and so many lessons and some of her best memories.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a team. You are giving her a group of girls that she might not have ever talked to if it wasn’t for these common cleats. A group of girls who will teach her how to be a teammate. A group of girls who will laugh with her and yell at her and train with her and win with her and lose with her. With a pair of cleats comes a group of mismatched people with a common goal who are learning from each other and working together.

SEE ALSO: To The Coach That Took My Confidence Away

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a coach. This coach is going to play an instrumental role in her love or hate for the sport. This coach will work her hard. This coach will train her and teach her and encourage her and yell at her and make her cry and hug her and cheer her on. This coach wants to see her succeed. This coach knows what these cleats mean, what this sport means. And this coach will be someone that she will watch. She will watch the way that her coach talks to her and talks to her teammates and talks to the other team and she will see her coach’s responses to games that are won and games that are lost. This pair of cleats comes with a role model, for better or for worse.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her team practices. You are giving her practice that will instill discipline and dedication and commitment. You are teaching her that she is on a team and she is expected to put in time. You are teaching her that her presence is important and that people are relying on her. You are teaching her how to balance her time, because, now, she has school and practice and games and teammates and friends and family. And for the first time in her life, she has to establish priorities. With this practice time comes some of the hardest conditioning and training. With this practice time comes some of her favorite memories as she bonds with her teammates and laughs with them and works hard with them. This pair of cleats comes with quite the time commitment.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her game days. You are giving her bus rides and warm up playlists and team matching hair ribbons and orange slices at half-time and constantly looking for your water bottle on the sidelines. You are giving her a competitiveness that can only come out on the field. You are giving her the cheers from the sidelines and the screams of her coach and the exhaustion in her legs at the end of the game. You are giving her handshakes with opponents and a winning attitude even when she loses. With a pair of cleats comes pasta dinners and game days; These will become her favorite days.

SEE ALSO: My First Semester As A College Athlete

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a challenge. She is going to grow and learn, and she’s going to want to quit at times, but she is going to look down at her feet and remember why she’s doing this. She’s going to remember her teammates and her coaches and the amount of time she’s poured into this sport, and she’s going to realize that it’s worth it. She’s going to be covered in bruises and her socks are going to stink, and she’s always going to be looking for a sock or needing a hair elastic. She’s going to be tired, and she’s going to get hurt. But those cleats are going to establish lessons that she’s going to remember for the rest of her life, friends that she is going to learn to love, and discipline that she is going to be thankful for. If you’re the girl with the cleats, soak it in. Love the long practices and the exhaustion and the sound of the whistle that starts the game. If you’re the girl without the cleats, go get some. Try something new. Take the risk. Sign up for the team, the musical, the club. You will regret it if you don’t. Even if you fail, few things can teach you the lessons that those cleats will.


The Girl Who Hung Up Her Cleats

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Cook

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I'm Still Friends With My High School Besties As A Senior In College, And I'm So Thankful For That

New friends are silver but the old ones are gold.


As you near the end of high school, it seems like everyone is telling you, "enjoy spending time with your friends now, because once you start college you'll drift apart." At the time, no one wants to believe it, but I will say there definitely is some truth in that. There were 800 people in my high school graduating class, but there's only a handful of those people who I've actually hung out with since our graduation parties. However, it's certainly not true about all friends. I'm now a senior in college, and I'm still friends with my high school best friends.

While things have definitely been different since we've been in college, our friendship hasn't changed. In high school we bonded over the French classes that we took together and our love for dance. Although we don't see each other every day in class anymore or after school at dance practice, that's only made me more appreciative of the time that we do get to spend all together. I always look forward to that time, whether it's spent going on adventures, laughing together at a coffee shop or even just sitting at home and watching a movie.

I've made a lot of amazing friends in college, but there's still something comforting about having friends who knew you as an awkward 14-year-old who you can turn to and reminisce about the past with. We may not talk to each other every day and we often go months without all three of us being together, but when we are together again we pick up right where we left off. No matter how far apart we are physically, I know they'll be there for me in an instant, whenever I need them (even if FaceTime is the best we can do).

I know I'm not the only person to stay friends with their high school best friends, but I also know that many people don't. So I'm so thankful that this friendship has continued on past our four years of high school. As we get ready to head into the next chapter of our lives in a few months, a lot is going to change all over again. I don't know if we'll ever live out our high school dream of living together in the city or even when the next time we'll all be living in the same state will be, but our friendship has made it this far and I know it won't end here.

Caitlin and Andrea, thanks for sticking by my side for the past four years. Here's to all the memories we have yet to make together.

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