My high school's commencement took place this past weekend, and as we threw our caps into the air to celebrate, the feelings finally hit.
High school is over. No more rushing to class to make it before the bell, no more entertaining lunch hours, and no more delicious paninis from the cafeteria (I probably cried the most about the last one).
Well, truthfully the crying about the paninis only lasted a few minutes, but then I realized that there is something that I will miss even more. And that is the amazing teachers and friends who have created an unforgettable 13 years. They are unsung heroes for changing my life.
School was my second home, and the amount of time and work that surrounded it was enormous. That is why I am so grateful that I was able to experience it with such kindness and support. Even though there were rough patches along the way, I will admit that I kind of loved school. It may have been painful one day and blissful the next, but that balance kept me grounded and transformed me into the person I am today.
Now that we've walked across the stage (hopefully without tripping), the question that seems to surface is "What's next?"
Well, some are heading off to university or college, some are working, some are even travelling, and some are uncertain. But one thing that is certain for all of us is that it may be the last carefree summer to experience as a teenager. So let's all make sure to spend it with the people who count.
Over the past couple of days, many words of guidance have been given from adults in my life. But some of the most heartwarming words that I've heard have been from kindergarten students who told our grad class to "go to the playground every day."
It's hard to remember the kids we used to be, because it seems like we have travelled so far. But that little girl or boy who loved to play in the sandbox still exists. Don't ever lose touch with them.
As we make our way into adulthood, the memories and friendships we've made and the lessons we have learned remain with us. I know that even 30 years from now, I will remember to stop, drop and roll if there is ever a fire. Kindergarten has taught me well.
I'm sure most graduates are feeling the same mixed, bittersweet emotions as I am right now. And when I look back at all the memories, a lighthearted feeling fills me. The same feeling I got when the whole audience cheered loudly as a graduate with specials needs crossed the stage. Powerful moments such as that one will keep me strong through the tough days.
I am confident that there are phenomenal people entering the real world. Our generation has the potential and talent to achieve great things and leave a mark.
Remarkably, I have already seen this accomplished throughout my school and community. And even those who have not changed the world have changed my life. To all the amazing individuals in this grad class, you have all touched my heart in your own unique ways, and I know you all have bright futures ahead. It is an honour to graduate among such inspiring people.
When I first walked into kindergarten, I was a little girl. But as I leave senior year, I am a young woman ready to take on the world.
Congratulations Class of 2012, and best of luck. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance.
Claudia Malinowski is a Grade 12 graduate of Dr. Charles Best Secondary.