“Wow, is this really happening?” my sister repeats again and again as she adjusts her cap. Decked out in multicolored cords and medals, having sat through hours of speeches and well wishes, my little sister is now a high school graduate. Surrounded by her squealing peers and their teary parents, my sister weaves through the crowd to find her friends, while I follow dutifully behind as her token paparazzi. As I snap picture after picture and embarrass her with an appropriate amount of “you guys look so cute!” and “are you sure you don’t want a picture with so-and-so?” I can’t help but repeat to myself what seems to be my sister’s favorite phrase of the day: “Is this really happening?”.
High school feels like eons ago. Just a few years ago it was us in those caps and gowns, being told that we were entering the “next chapter” of our lives. After suffering through four years of standardized testing, lugging around 20-pound backpacks and jumping from clique to clique, we were more than ready for this ambiguous chapter. We were done with math, we were done with curfews and we were absolutely convinced that we were nothing less than invincible.
But as we left home and entered Bear Territory, we came to realize that we were pretty unprepared for this chapter in our lives, and we were by no means invincible. We learned that we had to do our own laundry, including our sheets. We learned that we had to find our own food or find some way to cook something using a microwave and whatever we could find at Bear Market. We learned that school is hard, and our planners and calendars became our new best friends. As we made mistake after mistake, we learned to laugh and take everything in stride — each sleepless night became a dance party with our roommates and every embarrassment became our next go-to brunch story.
As my little sister enthusiastically waves at my family from the track, glowing from the joy of the day and the relentless sun, I know she is destined for lots of mistakes. All-nighters, greasy food, weekend nights that quickly turn to weekday mornings and all the ups and downs of college await her. However, I know she’ll handle everything with grace. She’s ready for the tough exams, the awkward first conversations, the anxiety that come with visiting a professor’s office hours for the first time, and I can’t wait to be right by her side.
The fact that my sister is now a new golden bear and that I’ve already had two phenomenal years here are what makes this graduation so incredible. As I watch each eager, young face under the brim of a square cap, I can’t help thinking of how young they look, and yet how ready they all are for what’s ahead. So, congratulations Class of 2016, we hope you’re all ready for this “next chapter” of your life!
Contact Gillian Perry at [email protected].