Congrats! You are nearing the end; you have finally made it through the four years you never thought would end. You made it through the dress codes, the late night cramming, the endless extra-curriculars and so much more that made your high school experience unique.
You persevered through the classes where you learned material you knew you would never use again, as well as the early morning classes you never wanted to wake up for. You made it through the drama you thought for sure ruined your life as well as the heartbreak that made you not want to walk the halls again.
These moments are almost gone and in the past, and I am certain you are so excited to leave the place where everyone knows who you are. As the days become numbered, you look forward to independence and a college where you can start all over.
I know you are excited for the future, but please remember what you are leaving behind.
You have passed your last Friday night football game. The next time you return to that stadium, you will be watching from the stands in a different atmosphere. You are coming up on your last dance. You will never shop for a dress that makes you feel beautiful or ask the girl of your dreams to dance with you again.
You won’t be in the student section cheering on your team with your best friends again. You won’t dress up for homecoming again. You won’t be a part of a team with your best friends. All these moments that went by so fast, so quick you didn’t even take time to realize it was your last, are gone.
Soon you will walk out of your high school hallway for the last time as a student. You will empty your locker that you shared with your best friend, who is probably going to some school hours away from you. You will finish your final test with the teacher you hated but they took the time to know your name. You will return your books, your computer, and say goodbye.
Then you will open the doors, so excited to leave the place you called hell on multiple occasions. Perhaps in this moment you will realize that this school will never be the same.
You are now an alumni, and you will never be the same walking in those hallways the way you were for four whole years. You are no longer a student, upperclassman, teammate or friend. Everything changes the moment you walk through those doors.
Soon you will walk across the stage, accept your diploma and say you did it. At that moment, look around. There are so many people you will never see again. The person you did countless projects with is going across the country and might never come back.
The person who lapped you in the mile is now going into the military, and you have no idea when you will see them again. The friends you spent endless Saturday nights with are leaving too. The people you grew up with, the ones who knew your birthday and favorite subject, won’t surround you.
Perhaps you find comfort in leaving familiarity, but remember that these moments are your last. Appreciate them, because when fall comes, everything will change.
You will leave your parents, your pets, your siblings. You are packing 18 years of your life into boxes as you try to gauge how much clothing you’ll need to bring because you have no idea when you’ll be home next.
You are leaving homemade meals and short drives to places you love. You are leaving everything you have ever known. Your parents will go back home, and you will be stuck alone at a place you now have to live at for the next few years of your life.
Professors won’t remember your name after the first semester. You will cry because you changed your major for the third time in four weeks. You have to choose classes that determine your future. Your parents won’t be there for you when you are sick. Your friends won’t be there when you have no one to eat with. You won’t have time to free read or think beyond the realms of school. You will constantly be buried in homework and anxiety. You have to rebuild yourself, by yourself.
So, senior, when you are so ready to go, please take a moment to realize what you are leaving behind. You will not get these moments back. The last dance, test, lunch, game, tailgate – appreciate them. College is amazing and filled with memories, but do not rush these last few weeks; you will never get them back.
The future will come soon enough. As you prepare for “firsts,” you are also approaching your “lasts” – embrace them please.
Dominica Service & Caribbean Culture
On Saying Goodbye, by Leah E
The sharp Caribbean sun shone brightly on the back of my sweat-damp, paint-splattered neck as I bent over to dip my wide-brimmed brush into the periwinkle paint. I charily mounted the rickety ladder, brush in hand, to complete the sky motif on the anti-drug mural I was painting in Portsmouth, Dominica. I was there, along with eleven other American teenagers and two leaders on a community service trip. After completing the final brushstroke, I stepped back to absorb my surroundings: The vivid blue sky served as a backdrop to the ramshackle huts that abutted pot-holed roads, towering coconut trees and an abandoned cemetery.
For ten days, my group worked at the town's youth center from dawn until late afternoon painting murals and cleaning the cemetery. The children and adults who lived nearby took notice of our presence (for a group of fourteen white people was a rare spectacle) and joined us in painting the mural. On the first day, I was drawn to an unimposing boy of about ten. He had deep, brown penetrating eyes and lanky limbs. The sclera on his eyes, instead of being healthy white, had the slight yellow tint of malnourishment. On my second or third interaction with him I noticed that he walked around barefoot and each day wore the same frayed orange T-shirt and faded jean shorts. The boy seemed to be pensive, choosing to sit alone on a rock rather than gossip with his cohorts. I tried conversing with him throughout our stay; however he repeatedly demurred, giving one-word answers and at times refusing to respond altogether.
I would ask him in an overly cheery tone, "What's your name?"
He would mutter under his breath, "Carlvin."
"That's a really nice name. Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"Oh neat! Older or younger? Boys or girls"
"Younger. Two boys."
And this is how our conversations went: I probed, he murmured. From my one-sided discourse with him, I learned that he had never met his father, lived down the street from where we were painting and sold mangoes and plantain chips out of his house to help support his family.
After ten days in Portsmouth, it was time to leave for our next location. As I was storing tubs of paint, Carlvin tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to follow him to his house. He shuffled his feet on the chalky dirt as I ambled behind him. The house was made solely of tin and cardboard. When we arrived, he told me to wait outside. He returned only a few moments later with a crumpled piece of lined-paper. He handed it to me, and on it, written in perfect penmanship, was a poem titled, "On Saying Goodbye." The letter read:
"There are too many goodbyes in my life. Just too many.
Things were sad
And then things were bad
And now things were so much better.
But I have to say 'goodbye.'
And even though there will be another 'hello,'
I don't want to see the friends and the times of this best of all summer go.
And if only your friend could be with me a little longer, just one more week, I'd have seven more whole days before I'd have to cry."
I looked at Carlvin, his round, always-focused eyes now diverted and peeled on the ground.
"That's beautiful. You really make me happy too," I said in a meager attempt to lift his spirits.
"Thanks," he muttered under his breath, eyes still fixed on the ground.
I often wonder why he tapped me on the shoulder. For I was his biggest bother, forcing conversation upon him, firing questions his way. While I connected with the other Dominicans, I was almost certain that my attempt to forge a bond with Carlvin had been futile. He never asked questions about my life, as did the others, never smiled or chuckled at my jokes. Carlvin remained sullen, his large oval, piercing eyes soaking up everything around him.
I was overwhelmed with confusion. I felt pleased that I had brought temporary joy to this boy's life, while also feeling sorry for his sadness. However, I achieved some clarity about my aspirations. While helping others has always been important to me, this encounter provided a new insight into why it was so important. The fact that I had unknowingly brought some shard of joy to this young boy's life made me realize that I have the power to spread happiness. I latched on to the idea that I have the capacity to provide solace to those in rough times. Carlvin's letter cultivated in me a newly heightened desire to pursue acts of healing.
Prior to receiving Carlvin's letter, I was focused on helping others with personal gain in mind. Even more important I realized that truly helping someone else does not require instant satisfaction. I became aware of the folly that is narcissistic gratification. The true desire to help someone else must stem from selflessness rather than the drive to bolster one's own self-esteem -- an invaluable lesson learned from a crumpled piece of paper, on a steamy summer's day, in Portsmouth, Dominica.
Signing off, Leah E