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Essay: Standing at the Crossroads of Past, Present and Future

Waves of emotions and expectations wash over eighth-graders at commencement.

Oh boy, oh boy, it’s that time of year again! And I don’t mean the time that people start thinking about Santa Claus in his jolly red suit; I’m talking about summer!

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Merrill Weber

By now, many schools have already been released, and many students have graduated. Whether from college or kindergarten, first grade or ninth, all graduations are a big deal. I just had my graduation from eighth grade, and although it may seem insignificant, it isn’t. You have to cram all of your middle-school memories and experiences into about two hours. Within those two hours, you probably have only a few measly minutes all centered on you. The rest are spent with principals and teachers sharing their views on you and your class, when you and the class are the ones who should be sharing. Depending on the type of ceremony your school holds, that time may vary. Maybe the only time you have is a few seconds, when your principal or director announces your name and hands you your certificate that signifies you have passed. Either way, you want those moments to be all about you.

I was lucky enough to attend a private school at which every person in the class gives a speech; all 24 graduating eighth-graders. I was the very last one to walk up to the podium and through those arches of doom to present my speech. I was trembling with nerves and adrenaline, but I stepped onto the stage, found my speech sitting on top of the others, banished my anxiety, and spoke. It all went well, except for the wind, which scattered some papers. I took it all in stride, just like everything else. But, within those minutes, I experienced a moment of clarity. I would never again be seeing all of my classmates every day, or spending lunch sitting on benches in a circle. That part of my life was over; completely and utterly over. I knew that I had made the best of my three middle-school years, but they flew by too quickly. I would have been perfectly content to keep living those years for a while longer.

But content is not the way we should live. It is all good and well to be content with what you are doing, but that also means life is getting boring. Junior high was not in the least bit dull, but it might have become that way if I endured any more. I am glad that I did graduate, and I am glad that I will be going onto a much bigger school, but there will always be the pain of my desire for things to stay the way they are. Some people embrace change, others go out looking for it, some accept it for what it is, and the rest flee from it. I am the person who avoids change at all costs. If I must, I cope with it, but not necessarily well.

For me, it is a practice that must never be forgotten. When I realized, toward the end of the school year, that I would be graduating in only a few weeks, I never believed it would really happen. It had seemed like a date set out so far in advance that no matter how hard you tried, it would never come closer. I didn’t worry about it at first, and kept putting those thoughts out of my mind, but they were soon to become a reality. Too soon, in my opinion. So, when I had to get up in front of my relatives, my classmates, and even my classmates’ relatives to deliver my speech, my swan song, all of the truths, feelings and nostalgia crashed upon me at once. I may have made it through the ceremony without crying, but just barely. When the event had finally adjourned, I got up, gave my parents hugs, and walked back to my friends. As I turned around and saw one of my friends in tears, I just couldn’t hold back anymore. I felt my eyes overflow, and the waterworks began. I never actually sobbed, but plenty of over-emotional girls were getting closer to hysterics.

Afterward, the whole thing seemed ironic. Usually, we were overjoyed to be let out onto summer vacation. We never felt regret or sadness that the school year was over. I think that the reason we got so worked up is that we were thinking ahead. We were thinking of all the days we would spend in high school without each other, and the friends we would lose if we didn’t manage to keep in touch. Nobody seemed to be capable of remembering all the fun times we had had, or what fun times lay ahead in the future. I am sure that at the back of our minds were little voices saying, “If you had this great of a time at middle school, imagine how fun high school will be!” They were there, but we just weren’t listening. Luckily, there were only two high schools our class was going to, Santa Ynez High or continuing at Dunn School. This was a comfort to many, but not all. There were lots of friends who would be split apart; with no knowledge of if they could still be friends going to public and private high schools. They just weren’t thinking so much about summer.

It is that time of year, where the fun is right under your nose, and you still don’t see it. Caught up in the past, and too focused on the future, my eighth-grade class forgot about the present. We needed to appreciate each other for the individuals we were, and live every moment. My middle school, Dunn, has a motto. It is Carpe Diem, Seize the Day. It happens to be completely relevant to our everyday lives, and something we constantly forget. Today is today, no regrets about yesterday, or fears for the future will change that. Take every day as it comes, accept the changes, and carpe diem.

Merrill Weber will be a freshman at Santa Ynez High in the fall.

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