It’s still hard to believe I am sitting here in my senior year of high school almost ready to graduate. Because of everything that has happened over the past four years, I have learned to make the most of things. So, as much as I am excited to leave high school, I also want to try and enjoy the next few months.
Then it will be time for college, at least for many of us. I know that has been almost the only thing many of us can talk about, besides prom and graduation. I still have no idea where I am going to go, so I guess you could say I’m pretty nervous. But I realize that many other seniors are also lost, which makes me feel a little better.
If I'm being honest, aside from being nervous, I am really just thankful that I am going to have the chance to explore a different part of my life, and hopefully have fun. I’ve been in Malden my whole life, and ever since my dad passed away during my freshman year of high school, I have felt this overwhelming need to get out and make a change—it’s almost like I have been trapped in that horrible moment of my life that I can’t manage to escape. At the same time, applying to colleges, and being in the process of getting application letters, helped me grasp how much I really wanted my dad here for these moments. Of course, the rest of my family is happy for me, and that's great, but I still have this indescribable feeling that something is missing; the person I wanted here most for this next step of my life is not here, and as much as my family has stepped in and tried, no one can truly fill that gap. On top of that, being raised by a single mother makes paying for college much harder. I know my mother is going to help me in any way she can, but I really don’t want her spending most of her money to help me pay for college. Unfortunately, I know that many others are worrying about paying for college, for different reasons, and it's so sad so many are faced with these financial dilemmas over college.
This college application process has really just been me trying to prove to everyone that I can get into competitive schools because that somehow makes me more capable of success. I never even stopped to realize that I should be proud of myself for just getting to this point. In some ways, it feels like I’m not only trying to fulfill my own expectations, but also my dad’s; he was always the one bothering me about school, whether it was my grades, homework, or attendance. Being invested the way he was could make him really annoying, but looking back, I really miss it—he always reminded me that I was capable of great things if I just put my mind to it. After he passed, it took a long time for me to care about doing anything—school, life, relationships. Still, I sometimes ask myself “Am I even going to be able to make it through college without him?” I also struggle with wanting to go to my own graduation without him there, never mind four years of college, without being able to reach out to him. But I will, because I know that is what he wants. Everything I do today is more for him than it is for myself.
Losing people is hard. Navigating grief is hard, especially when you are young. No one is ever prepared for such a loss, especially a 14-year-old. Growing up can become a really difficult process. You realize that time doesn't magically stop and you have to keep doing all those things you would have been expected to do otherwise. To anyone that is dealing with something difficult, whether that be the loss of an important person in your life, or something very different, it does get better, and I hope that you can make the best of the next stage of your life. I honestly believe college can be part of a wonderful journey and it may even be able to help you get away from the life you have always known, sometimes the life that has endured many hardships. I know that going off to college can mean leaving your family behind, maybe some of you want that. If I attend college out of state, it is going to be hard to leave my mom behind. It has been just as hard for me as it has been for her. We won't be able to lean on each other the way we have over the past few years.
But, overall, I am excited to go to college and get into a new routine. Every day of the past few years has looked the same. Every day, I come home and am reminded of what is missing, and while that did become easier to deal with, it never quite went away. Sometimes, I think that if I just go somewhere I will be happy, that I will no longer feel emotionally trapped. Maybe it won’t fix anything. Maybe it will fix something. Either way, I want to move forward and discover a life I am content with. The past few years have had both beautiful and hard moments, and I am ready to leave it all behind. I want to leave all the grief and heartbreak behind.
Throughout high school, I am sure many of you have dealt with your own fair share of problems, some bigger than others. Many times, it has probably felt like the end of the world. So please, take care of yourself. Take advantage of what is in front of you. If you are not happy with the way your life is going, go a different direction. We are bigger than everything we have been through. I know that moving on can be a struggle, but it is not impossible, trust me. I want to move on, and in many ways, I think I already have. You can only truly move on when you decide to start living a life outside of the mess that has been consuming you. After graduation, I hope all of you find yourself doing something you enjoy. Don’t let what has happened in the past hold you back, even if it seems scary to just let go.
Life can feel like a punch in the face sometimes. All we want is for things to get better, and easier to deal with. I promise you that it is possible to move on from this moment in your life, all of them, especially the ones that have hurt you. One of the most important things my dad taught me, was to stop being so hard on myself, and instead learn to be proud of trying. I am still learning that things can always be worse.