Caps, Gowns, and Goodbye’s, Oh My!

It’s been a week since we graduated, but I don’t think even the concept of having to say goodbye has really sunk in yet…most people I know are getting back from beach week— there’s no room for nostalgia during a parent-less, fun-filled week by the sea with your closest friends.

The summer is still fresh, don’t get me wrong, but for me, at least, it feels like I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people that I might not see again. I didn’t go to beach week; I won’t have the same memories as so many of my peers. The social network that we’ve built by seeing the same faces every day is in for an overhaul. Slowly, as the summer passes, we’ll pare it down to the people that truly matter to us: the ones that we will keep in our lives as we grow. I’ve already observed this phenomenon in my life: it’s inevitable.

But graduation? That was a celebration, in my eyes. Every speaker spoke on the same theme (I mean, this is a high school graduation), but each managed to contribute a different perspective on what it means to be entering the “real world.” Those words are a little daunting. Okay, maybe more than a little. But the speakers left us with a sunset of advice, not just a narrow streak of orange, pink, or red.

Then…we graduated. Tweets were sent out, Facebook albums uploaded, Instagrams posted, and countless, countless puns used. At some point I was worried that I was compromising the integrity of my thumb with all of the double-tapping I’d been doing. But, we are officially alumni, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Class of 2015.

After the ceremony, my family and I went to Silver Diner (because oh my goodness, that might be the longest I’ve gone without water…and to anyone that knows me, I have a Camelbak permanently attached to my hand). I’m happy that I could spend the night with family.

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Now, I’ve been getting this question a lot, from TJ kids, non-TJ kids, and adults, alike: are you glad you went to TJ?

That is such a loaded question!? Of course there are pros and cons to every decision, and the TJ experience is unique and not easily comparable to other schools. And, if I’ve never been to another high school, how am I to really know? There are a few things I do know, however, and those have helped me in shaping my answer.

I know that I am not a STEM kid. I am a humanities person, I always have been, and I (hope) that I always will be. My email address and snapchat username are literally “Barnes and Noble lover,” and I have no shame. I can’t bring myself to research, I forced myself to write biology notecards, study neurobiological articles, and calculate flux. To be fair, this was of my own doing; there are people who have made it through TJ taking their fair share of humanities-based courses: AP Art History, Photography, Journalism. I was able to squeeze in three semester-long courses in my four years, and I deeply regret not having taken the classes that I truly wanted to.

Yet I also know that to be a TJ kid is like no other. The environment, teachers, and students are a mix that you won’t find anywhere else.

My biggest reason for saying that, ultimately, YES, I’m GLAD I went to TJ? I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And it’s true that if I had gone to my base high school, I would still be “me,” just a different me. But it was at TJ that I learned the most about myself, experienced how to “do science,” and set out on the road to carving my own path. Who knows, if I hadn’t gone to TJ, I wouldn’t be writing on this blog—I might have graduated somewhere else thinking science is my thing. Still, even if l did have this blog, my perspective would be incredibly different.

And so, as much as I have to say this through gritted teeth, thank you, TJ. Thank you for helping me learn about myself and for preparing me to take on my life, full force, as the person that I am today.

I’m curious: Is there anything you regret about high school? Anything you are incredibly grateful for? If you went to TJ—are you glad you did? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

ConGRADS (I had to get in just one),
Aliana

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