This past week marked the one year anniversary of my high school graduation. 365 days since my classmates and I walked across that stage, received our hard earned diplomas, and entered the beginning of the rest of our lives. Although it's been a whole 12 months, it almost feels like yesterday. All of the emotions, scenes, and memories still feel so fresh in my mind. At the same time, it's been one of the longest years of my life.
In the days and months immediately following graduation last summer, I remember having such mixed feelings. I felt happy and accomplished that my hard work had payed off, and excited and ready to start my new adventure and the next phase of my life; college. But at the same time, I felt my time at home and with my friends and family slowly slipping away. I was sad that I would no longer see these people every day, I was scared that everything I knew so well at home would soon change, and I was admittedly as nervous as I was excited about starting college.
At the end of the summer, it was difficult to let the safe and familiar security blanket of home go as I packed up and left. And I'm not gonna lie, the first part of the year was so hard. Trying to make new friends, adjusting to living on my own as well as college academics, and all the responsibilities that come with these things wasn't easy. But I got through it, and it got easier. Much easier. And freshman year ended up being amazing. It gave me a new home away from home, amazing new people (see To Those Who Made My Freshman Year), and most of all a whole new understanding about myself.
My first year as a high school graduate has let me grow more as a person that I think any other single year out of my life thus far. I have become more aware of who I am, what's important to me, and what I want out of life. I am aware now more than ever of how much I love my home, everything about my city, and all of the people there. I have a deep new appreciation for everything I was lucky enough to have and experience during the first 18 years of my life.
I have changed. But I would like to think that I have changed in a positive way. The people around me have changed too. All of my high school friends have each changed in their own ways. A few in unexpected ways, but most in ways similar to myself. This year has taught us who our true friends really are; the ones who have stuck with us through the distance, inevitable change, new friends, and roller coaster of emotions that college brings. This is such a valuable lesson.
My little brother who I left behind at home is another year older and growing up way too fast, the kids I used to babysit for barely seem like kids anymore and are getting smarter by the second, my family has adjusted to living without me most of the time, and there are people that I haven't seen or heard from since the day of graduation. But I'm okay with all of this. I may not like it all, but I've come to understand and accept that change is the driving force behind growing up; it's both necessary and good for me at this point in my life.
I'm so grateful for everything that my four years in high school gave me. If it hadn't prepared me so well and given me such a wonderful support system and academic foundation, then this year may have been a whole different story. This past year may not have been easy, but it has definitely been worth it. My future in the "real world" is starting to become more and more clear and within reach each day, and I can't wait to see what my next few years as a high school graduate will bring.