High school graduation is the big event that officially ushers you from kid to adult.
Making this life transition is thrilling and emotional for all involved: the graduating senior, family, friends. It feels momentous – because it is – yet as time marches on, that phase of your life fades as the milestones of adulthood takes over. No one really gets it all figured out. Some days you feel like you’ve truly mastered your existence. The next day you feel like you’ve learned nothing in all these decades of life.
I’ve covered the Orcas High School Graduation for the past nine years; two of those years I had a child in the senior class. Every time I’ve sat in that uncomfortable seat and watched our kids receive thousands of dollars in scholarships, tell stories about their friendships, dream of the future ahead and grasp that diploma in their hands, I am overcome with the shining promise of possibility these island-grown children possess.
They diligently completed senior projects that enriched the community around them; they toiled through years of homework; they navigated social minefields; they played sports; they played instruments; they grew and learned in ways that only young people can. They have the innocence of childhood still glittering on their shoulders as they prepare to tackle grown-up goals. It’s a lovely combination that they’ll never have again.
I had the honor of going to the state playoffs with the Lady Vikings softball team this year. It really brightens your hope for the future to see young athletes leaving everything on the field and walking off with a smile on their faces. For me, it’s immensely moving to see this kind of dedication and grit. For them, it’s just one of the many activities that fill their days. I wish these kids knew how much their lives inspire me.
Phil Comito, Orcas High School teacher and senior class advisor, spoke at the senior dinner the Sunday before graduation. He read the lyrics to a Baz Luhrmann song (originally a newspaper column by Mary Schmich) called “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).” It was a popular graduation track when it came out in 1999, and I was reminded of how relevant the words are. Here are a few of my favorite lines.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours
Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself
Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either
your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s
Enjoy your body
use it every way you can.
don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it
it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own