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Thoughts of a Graduate
“Stop or I’ll shoot.” Mindlessly running various famous movie catchphrases through my mind, I attempt to distract myself from my own incessant thoughts, clawing at my consciousness despite my best efforts to ignore them. Shoot me, please. Of all the things that should be running through my mind right now, this is the only one I can seem to focus on. The thought of it really drives me up a wall, and can’t understand why. I mean, why do people even do that? As I think to myself in silence, the shaky voice of our valedictorian, a kiss ass over achiever with a 4.0 GPA and impeccable list of after school activities, ebbs and flows through my thoughts. Everyone else around me looks completely engrossed in everything she’s saying. Her speech is more or less generic, a few witty quips here and there. Mostly they just get lost in a sea of nostalgia that she’s created, making the entire room relive those painful memories from our awkward years that I for one have done my best to reduce to the deepest corner of my brain. I shift my leg from foot to foot, partly to relieve my aching calves and also to distract myself from the pointless thoughts stuck in my mind. What is the point in throwing up your cap in the air? What are people thinking? “Oh yay, look at me, I finished high school and now I’m going to go to college to do this again in four more years!” I just fail to see the point. You throw it, you lose it, you grab someone else’s, you put it on and you get lice. Well, maybe you don’t always get lice, but I’ve seen some of the heads here at our school. No way am I voluntarily sticking my head in their cesspool of scalp germs.
This is, or so I’m told, supposed to be one of the most pivotal points in my life and all I can worry about is finding my tacky cap. It’s not even nicely made, blue threads poking out from every which direction and seams that don’t sit quite right. What should really be running through my head right now? I look to my left and see a familiar face, though I’m unable to give that face a name. I think we had Biology together in freshman year, just before lunch. Her expression seems relatively blank and calm, making me even more curious as to what she is thinking. She must be thinking about something, unless of course she’s just focusing on ignoring the 30 speeches made by people we don’t know or care about. I wonder how my expression looks compared to hers. Making sure not to relax my muscles before I can find out, I reach my hand up to my brow and feel it is rather furrowed. I’m sure my parents are sitting in the audience and wondering why I can’t just smile blindly to the crowd and let them get a picture. I put my hand back down and relaxed my face in response to that last thought.
As I do that, yet another thought occurs to me. Why is it I still feel the need to please my parents? I mean, the gig is up, I put in my time. I joined math and science clubs for dad and as many service clubs as they offered for mom, putting a strain on my social calendar to satisfy their demands. This was the end of that need-to-please era and the beginning of one in which I owe nothing to anyone except myself. So when was this feeling of complete independence supposed to kick in? When the last speaker finally finishes and I make my way across the stage, trying to remember which hand to shake with and which to accept the diploma without looking awkward? Or is it when I move my entire collection of back to college Target bought pieces into my cramped dorm room and settle in with someone who doesn’t care at all about how well I do and what goals I set?
No, it’s still too soon to think about that kind of stuff; I’ve got to focus on something else. Looking down at my robes, I see a bunching of the fabric originating from the back. I didn’t notice it until now but I soon became aware of an embarrassing annoyance. I knew I shouldn’t have chosen the lacy panties over my usual Hanes, granny panty style. It’s not like I was expecting to get some or anything like that. Not only am I single but, come on, high school graduation isn’t exactly prom night; whatever makes it irresistible at the Four Seasons certainly lacking here. I guess they just make me feel more like that college girl that guys fantasize about and make reference to on a daily basis.
I can’t exactly reach back there and relieve the pestering discomfort. I’m stuck in the very front row and, of course, an extremely good looking guy who looks annoyingly familiar is standing right behind me. No doubt would he notice if I readjust my underwear right in front of him. Still, I look over my shoulder, in hopes that he’s actually focused on the guest speaker and won’t notice me. Looking back as discretely as possible, being the only person in the auditorium turned the opposite way during the endless prattle, I glance up at him. He notices my subtle movements and shifts his gaze down at me, an odd smile crossing his face. Abashed, I turn back in one swift motion to face the glaring lights, waiting for the blush in my cheeks to fade. Not only did I just embarrass myself in front of a cute guy, something I thought I had grown out of indefinitely, but I’m also stuck with this wedgie until this whole thing is over. Great.
Our principal finally starts to call names and I recognize a few of my friends, those lucky enough not to be the last name in the entire class, making their way across the stage, posing at the end, and returning to their spot. I was always placed at the back of the classes that seated according alphabetical order, always the last to be called in role, and always the last picture in the yearbook. Chances are I’ll be the last next year as well, because even in a campus of thousands I doubt there is a name farther from “A” than Zykes. All the “Allen’s” and “Baxter’s” of the world don’t even know how lucky they have it.
I just realized my palms are sweating up a storm and the material my gown is made of doesn’t seem to be able to absorb the moisture. I’m not even nervous; at least I don’t think I am. In the realm of things, this moment means next to nothing. When I’m standing at the altar in my simple floor length gown, finally able to properly fill out that B cup, I doubt this day will even compare. When I’m stretched out on a gurney, screaming bloody murder for a life I’m about to bring into this world, this day will probably be the farthest from my mind. My high school education, in truth, finished weeks ago, when I completed my last final, so what exactly is the point of today?
There I go again, lost in a world of skepticism. My friends always complain about my, well, complaints. Just because I often question, and occasionally poke fun at, what is generally accepted doesn’t necessarily make me a complainer, does it? I can’t exactly help it that I have a tendency to over think situations and comment on them. Some things just aren’t meant to be taken seriously, and it’s ridiculous that society expects me to. For example, the hype about homecoming is wholly absurd. People rent limos, make a fuss about getting their hair and make up done, and spend a small fortune on dresses that seem to be missing quite a bit of fabric all in the name of a football game. And what about those shorts that barely cover your butt cheeks? No one wants to see your butt cheeks, especially in tight denim shorts that are no bigger than your underwear. Very classy. And what’s the whole deal with those ridiculous brand names. You pay these sky high prices for a normal t-shirt that sports their brand name on it right across the center. Although I admit it’s pretty ingenious, all you’re doing is paying to be their walking talking advertisement. And how about everyone’s irrational fear of people judging how they look every second of every day. The truth of the matter is that no one cares what you look like, no one is assessing your outfit and how its fits you. And even if they are, they obviously have no life, in which case should anyone really be concerned about what they’re thinking in the first place? And can you believe how people--
Before I can finish the last part of my internal rant someone taps my shoulder. I turn back to me the eyes of the same guy from before and I already feel the flush rising to my cheeks. He leans over and whispers into my ear, and at this point I completely forget all that occupied my mind before.
‘Uh hey, its your turn to get your diploma. Any chance you could go grab it? I’d like to graduate sometime today…”
For the third time today I feel completely red-faced and manage to nod my head, mortified. I walk over to my principal, who looks slightly questioningly at me as I trip over the edge of my gown. Lucky for me, this untangles the lace from the cotton polyester mix and I was finally relieved from previous bunching. I shake with my right and reach with my left, and before I can really soak it in the moment is over. Back in my original spot, I catch my breath and it hits me that this is really just the beginning of everything. Unexpectedly, excitement wells up inside of me as I hear the principal cry, “I now present to you the class of 2011!” Before I realize what I’m doing I can feel my cap fly from my hands, mingling high above me with those of my classmates. Crap. I threw it, didn’t I?