Auntie Says: Graduating? Now what?

So here you are at the end of a 13-year journey.

You’ve completed about 11,650 hours of classroom time, spread over 2430 days (give or take), done countless exams, and performed who knows how many fire drills. It’s been quite a ride but now, the grad caps have been tossed in celebration, the prom gowns will soon be hung up, and the tuxes returned — it’s over — the final bell has rung.

It started off with such wide-eyed curiosity and wonder. Do you remember the thrill of going to kindergarten? Entering those doors as a five-year- old was one of your earliest steps towards true independence. It may have been the first time away from your mom and dad, and it was probably a new experience having to follow instructions whilst trying to harness the energy and excitement of the life going on around you.

I’m sure there were good times, and maybe even a few not so good times, but you made it. Hopefully, your school days will now be memories of the songs you sang, the games you played and the friendships you’ve nurtured. It’s said to be one of the best times of your life, but that’s not true for all. Graduating from the hallowed halls for some means getting out of the hell hole and finally away from the bullies, the jocks and the masses you’re forced to contend with everyday.

Well, let me tell you, whether you attended high school kicking and screaming all the way, or were the kid who skipped down the hallway with a silly grin plastered across their face, the real world is now open for business — and it’s all yours.

Are you excited? I hope so. I’m excited for you because high school is like a small little pond and your future is the ocean.

Just think about it. For the last 13 years you’ve spent your days with many of the same people, not out of choice, but out of the dictation of catchment areas and random (and sometimes not so random) classroom assignments. You’re put into a situation where you must befriend those around you or be completely ostracized. Your life has been structured by the school agenda, but now everything you’ve known and relied on for so many years will change.

It’s a thrilling time of your life and it can be a little overwhelming too as personal choice actually kicks into gear full throttle.

You need to exercise wisdom, common sense and, at first, walk slowly through your new world to avoid falling victim to accidents and impulsive decision making that can lead you into trouble.

Go forward with your own sense of wide-eyed curiosity like when you started Kindergarten, knowing that pitfalls and life lessons await.There will be broken hearts, empty bank accounts, and shattered dreams, but there’ll also be the beauty of a sunset, the realization of a goal and the growing of your soul and spirit.

For several years now, you’ve been surrounded by the same faces, attitudes and struggles. Will that continue? Only you can answer that.

Often, when you separate physically from a group, you can choose to lose touch and go your own way. You can declare your independence and freedom from all things high school and forage out a new identity if that’s what you want.

Many young people blossom in college because they’re free to choose not only their educational path, but also their friends and cohorts. Even staying in touch by means of social media may hold you back in the high school mentality, as the cliques and inherent insecurities never really change — the “popular girl” will always be that in your mind. Do you want to read her status and always feel like you’re back there?

You’ve got the world waiting for you. It’s there with all it’s opportunity and potential. Hard work and perseverance can guide you in your pursuits.

Congratulations on getting through the 13 years — now go forth and conquer.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan.