Six years ago, I was saying goodbye to my friends, whom I suspected I would rarely, if ever, see again. After all, I was moving to Ohio (i.e.: the middle of nowhere), and leaving behind the beloved Sterling Lake, where I would swim alone after closing; driving away from the peonies that encircled my sunny yellow house; nursing the memories of 11 years.
And this new school I would attend—Solon. I was determined to hate it. In fact, it wasn’t very hard to despise the prison-like brick exterior with rows of small windows, to complain about the white-washed blank hallways, to moan about the impersonal administration.
Well, I was right, wasn’t I? The whole mess was far from ideal. Who could blame a new-comer for not feeling… well, a part of it. For these past six years, I was certainly not a Solon Comet. I never chanted at pep rallies, never bought a class ring, skipped as many assemblies as I could get away with.
I don’t regret my lack of “school spirit”—apologies to those boys who wander around the school in puffy wigs of school colors. I don’t love the administration that oversaw my excellent education. I don’t wish I bought a yearbook to commemorate four years of high school.
But finally, I can see past the tarnished surface and appreciate the fantastic experience forced upon me.
Last night, as I sat on the stage, squinting against the gleaming lights, sweating under my graduation gown, I looked around at my classmates, and for the first time, felt a tinge of remorse. Sure, there were a few people with whom I could exchange a smile, but there were faces I didn’t recognize, and worse—those with whom I was only vaguely familiar, but wished I could have known better. That’s something I can’t change.
But as I watched, waiting my turn, as the line of graduates strolled by, I was certain that whether they were the Science Olympiad national champions or members of the drama club, whether they stayed up late to study for a physics test or woke up before dawn to practice for a swim meet, whether they had the ever-present smudge of paint on their faces or could draw nothing more intricate than an integral sign, whether they spent their free time programming games on their calculators or (camera in hand) exploring the beauty of urban decay, they all shared something—given to them at Solon High School: opportunity.
“The sky was the limit”
We weren’t told which classes to take, which interests to pursue, which choices to make. But were all encouraged, and now it’s up to us.
Not everyone on that stage last night is ‘destined’ to succeed. Not everyone on that stage last night will take the same path. But at this point, all 462 of us have just stepped—“into the great wide open”.
The stream has at last reached the ocean. It gets harder from here, but each one of us has tumbled over so many pebbles, through so many rapids, that it’s certain that we all have the potential. We just have to choose a direction. If we make sure we stay afloat and fight the tide when we have to, we’ll each end up on some glorious bank.