The Next Stage

June 14, 2010
It’s her graduation day, at which point she is so sure her life will truly begin. She wakes up expecting to feel sad or scared or impatient. Instead, she feels the way she normally does, as if her mother will yell up the stairs that the bus is idling on the corner, waiting to take her to school.

She puts on her strapless, white dress, mentally noting that she likes her school’s tradition of forgoing caps and gowns for white dresses and suits, but that she kind of wishes her school did the whole cap and gown-thing. For tradition’s sake, of course.

As she brushes her long brown hair, she watches herself in the mirror and feels the familiar disconnect. She feels it often, when, as she lives her life, laughing with her friends, flirting with the occasional cute boy, mutedly picking at her vegetables during dinner with her family, she catches a glimpse of herself in a bathroom mirror or a passing car window. She always catches her breath a little, as if she expects to see a different person or nothing at all. For who is she really, the person going through the daily motions of life or the girl whose reflection she cannot escape?

It’s not as if she’s not pretty. She’s been called beautiful before, even gorgeous, or, her personal favorite, hot (because she feels that “hot” determines your attractiveness to guys). She’s had her fair share of crushes and hook-ups, though she’s half-wishing for a whirlwind passionate romance straight out of a Taylor Swift song.

On the way to her school, she wishes her mother would offer up a congratulatory word instead of going off about summer jobs and internships and registering for fall classes. She wonders if her mother nostalgically remembers the little girl who called the acting agency from the radio ad for an audition and who proudly showed off the A++ she had received on her picture book about cats, the only such grade received in her class, as well as the little girl herself, now grown, does. Better yet, she wonders how she can break it to her mother nicely that whenever her mother tells her to do something, she is less inclined to do it. For how can she say nicely that she blames her mother, and not senioritis, for her complete loss of motivation? Because yelling at her mother would mean tears which, in turn, would mean ruining the makeup she has so perfectly applied just for graduation, though, in truth, it is the same makeup she wears everyday.

When she and the rest of her class file into the auditorium for the ceremony, her two best friends flanking her because they all insisted on sitting together, she surveys her classmates. And though she knows the appropriate reaction is sadness that she will rarely ever see these people again, she can’t help but think, “Brown. Harvard. Amherst. NYU,” as she looks from face to face, once again regretting her decision not to apply to NYU because of its lack of a campus.

She wishes the graduation speeches made her feel more inspired. They’re funny and entertaining and she’s not bored, though they carry the clichéd “Follow your dreams, despite what anybody tells you” messages, but she can’t help but wonder if she’d feel more inspired or more “graduated” if she’d gotten into a better school. Because, though she’s accepted her decision to attend an amazing, but lesser-known, liberal arts college, she can’t shake the feeling that maybe she’s not extraordinary. And although she’s always prided herself on being average, average height, average weight, average grades, being average is no longer acceptable in the world and she lacks the motivation to do anything about it. She suspects that’s why she sighed and said, “Whatever,” as she clicked the “Send” button on her college applications in January. She suspects that’s why she expects her teachers to forget her name by the next school year. Because although she has always prided herself on being average, how can she tell anyone that her greatest fear is that she is fated to lead a completely un-extraordinary life?

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This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

jaredwriter19 said...
Jun. 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm

This was really good! Althought I felt that it could be continued some more. Keep up the good work!

P.S. Mind checking out some of my stories? :)

roxymutt said...
Jun. 19, 2010 at 10:21 am
i actually think this is really good!! :) i like that these are real emotions thta ive felt b4 and its just something we all have to go not good with the whole grammar deal so i didnt deal with the run ons it was fine to me great job!
circus_freak said...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 1:03 pm
I agree with bang about the run-on sentences, they're my downfall too. I don't know what I'd do without my mom to correct my work. I really like this piece. I thought the ending was a little abrupt, though that could just be me. Your details really add to your writing.
LilyC1227 replied...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Thanks for commenting!
banangela29 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 9:10 am

I really liked the message and theme of this story, and I like the way the story flows. The only thoing I can suggest is that, since the tone of the piece seems somewhat formal, at times it seems to turn sentences into run-ons. Try to fix a couple of those and it will make for a smoother read.

Other than that, great job! :)

LilyC1227 replied...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Thanks, yeah the sentences seemed a little long to me too...I'm really glad you got the message behind it though!
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