I spent years looking forward to my high school graduation and had always assumed it would be an overwhelming, tear-jerking experience… but it wasn’t.
If anything I would at least cry from happiness, right? Surely I’d shed a tear when I saw the photo of me and my bestie in Year 7? What about when my favourite teachers started sniffling when they said they were proud of me?
Nup, nothing. Nada. Not a single drop of liquid would squeeze itself from my eyeballs.
On the day my countdown app blared that I was officially escaping school, I was suddenly thrown into this series of moments I had spent so long visualising. It honestly didn’t feel real, I was on autopilot and my brain was only capable of constantly repeating ‘this is an important moment, remember this moment.’
In spite of my brain’s efforts, even now when I look back only months later, the memory still feels like a dream that isn’t entirely tangible.
I know there were speeches that dragged on for that bit too long. I know there was a photo story to the soundtrack of some tear-jerking song.
I know there was an endless amount of pictures taken, words of congratulations and looks of envy from younger students. I know that no matter how loud my cohort sang, it would still have felt disappointing to me.
After I somehow willed myself to walk across the stage and receive the piece of paper which stated I had successfully completed 13 years of schooling, I stood in the school hall and looked around at the people I had essentially grown up with.
Some seemed ecstatic, others inconsolable or anxious, there was even a handful acting as if this was the last time they would ever see each other (the grad after party was in a few hours).
I just couldn’t pinpoint what I was feeling–if I was feeling anything at all.
A friend came up to me and excitedly asked “this is crazy! How are you?!” and all I could manage to reply was “hungry.” The look on his face was enough to suggest I should be feeling immensely guilty for being so emotionless, but still… I didn’t.
Maybe I was so dry-eyed on graduation day because all my tears had been used up beforehand. From those countless nights I stayed up late, forcing myself to complete an assignment or study for an exam I couldn’t care less about. As well as those couple of times I gave up and collapsed into bed, knowing the only person I was letting down more than my teachers and parents, was myself.
I must have spent hours lying exhausted on my bedroom floor, staring at the ceiling and questioning whether I would ever make it to the end. To a certain extent, I think focusing on the finish line is what got me through those last two years.
Yet, I can’t help but wonder that my time in high school would have been a lot less shitty if I didn’t spend so much time begging to get out of there. How was I meant to remember something important if my mind was somewhere in the future?
What I do remember is the entire double physics lesson my friends and I spent stifling our laughs at vine compilations on YouTube. I remember dancing to the crappy DJ at formal and how much my feet ached.
I remember the somewhat joking prayer circles my class would form right before we went into an exam. I remember the stress of rushing to a class because I’d spent too long hanging around after the bell rang.
I remember being so terrified of public speaking that I felt physically sick before by English speech, but doing it anyway. I remember the after school Maccas trips and the ‘so-bad-they’re-good’ Dad jokes my English teacher would tell us.
Turns out the ‘life-changing’ moment of my actual graduation wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be.
Instead, it was the little moments that were important. The moments where I felt something (unlike my graduation).
The moments where I’d laugh with my friends until we were crying and the teacher threatened to kick us out of class. The moments where I’d make eye contact with a mate across the exam room and we’d realise we were fucked. The moments spent in the library when my head felt so crammed with English quotes and History dates that it felt like they were about to tumble out and I’d remember nothing for the exam.
I didn’t cry at my high school graduation but that’s not important.
by Olivia Evans-Schwede