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Commentary Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 9, 2009

Graduation — the big day
Years later, it’s the little things that matter

By Anne Hayden             

For many high school seniors, graduation feels like the biggest day in life so far. It is the culmination of so many years of classes, teachers, sports, and friends. It is the day of recognition, congratulations, of money, and gifts.

But for those students out there who think graduation is the most important thing to happen to them thus far, I want to say this: In the grand scheme of things, graduation itself hardly matters at all. When I think back — seven years back — to high school, graduation hardly enters my mind, and, if it does, it’s nothing but a blur.

I was probably just as excited about the “big day” as anyone else, but over time, the memories of caps and gowns, diplomas, flowers, and cards, have dissipated. What I do remember are the little things.

What I have committed to memory are the free periods spent driving junky cars to the McDonald’s drive-through with friends, the delicious chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria that can not be replicated elsewhere, and that one cool teacher who let me take naps in her classroom.

Some of the best times I had were traveling with my sports team on weekends, or going to the giant pasta parties we held. Maybe it was just the time spent with friends — school dances, sleepovers, and random pranks.

What I do know is that graduation was decidedly anti-climatic. Everything seemed to build up to that day, especially during senior year. We all could not wait to get that diploma and attain our “freedom.” And then, after slightly more than two hours, the whole thing was over. All that remains is the photographic evidence, and blurry recollections.

The same goes for college graduation — I couldn’t wait for the day I would walk across the stage and enter the “real world.” The ceremony felt rushed, and I got my picture taken with my diploma, before congregating with my friends. The next morning, I woke up feeling empty and sad.

Just like in high school, the memories of college aren’t of that one big day at the end of four long years. They are of living in dorms, surrounded by 50 of my closest friends, the horrible cafeteria food, pulling all-nighters to finish papers, and staying up all night for other reasons that shall remain nameless.

Three years after college, I have no big ceremonies or sought after celebrations on the horizon. And I’m OK with that. It feels nice not to be striving toward some built-up day, to be able to appreciate the memories I’m making without feeling as if the whole point of my life is to get to one momentous day.

I encourage everyone graduating this year to focus less on the day, and more on the hundreds of days that got you here. Because maybe not tomorrow, and maybe not the next day, but one day you will think back to high school, and graduation will seem like the least important part of it

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