August 10, 2013


We've already established that I'm a bad blogger, so I won't mope and moan about it for a whole paragraph. I would be doing my posterity a big wrong if I didn't document the most amazing and long non-spiritual day of my life. There have been other days in my life that have topped it, but none that were strictly secular experiences.

The day of graduation was INCREDIBLE. I think it might have been one of my favorite days of high school (which is pretty sad). I still had to wake up early for seminary, but it was just a matter of habit. The last day of seminary was awesome. I can't remember exactly what we did, but that is a pretty accurate description of my entire seminary experience. I can't remember very many distinct lessons, but the spirit I felt there EVERY MORNING was undeniable. It was definitely worth the sacrifice of waking up early.

This was our awesome seminary class. I loved seeing their beautiful faces every morning.
After seminary, I leisurely drove to the high school so that I could pick up my cap and gown. This was kind of a surreal experience. It was actually the first time that graduating seemed real. In fact, it still hasn't really sunk in that I am graduated. I just don't feel like a college student yet. I hope that will change in the future. I'm learning to savor transition, but I like being settled, too.

Waynesville, sometime long ago, decided that it would be a good idea to have men graduates wear black ... and to have women graduates wear pumpkin orange. I was kind of sad about that, but really, I was happy to be finally graduating that those kind of things didn't matter to me. I picked up my little packet (plus a tassel from NHS) and tried it on for size. Yeaaaaaaah, I can deal with this. I liked being a graduate. With those robes on, I truly felt like I had accomplished something spectacular. It felt awesome.

We promptly left the auditorium where we received our caps and gowns and went to the gym for Passing of the Torch. Passing of the Torch is a sweet little ceremony where the seniors sit on the floor of the gym and then all of the other classes take their places in the next chair position up. It is a little award ceremony where departmental awards and A+ scholarships and other things are awarded (like teacher of the year). I usually look forward to these things, especially when I am unaware of the gun threats that "occur" almost every year. Something crazy is always going down at these things. Three years ago, there was a fight and our school cop had to jump the railing. One year ago, the entire school sang We Are Young by Fun. This year, I totally could have cared less about what was going on around me. I was just really into the moment.

I sat up with the other valedictorians of my class (did I mention there were thirteen of us?) and I just looked and looked around me. This was the gym where I worked so hard to stay physically fit (har har) throughout the years. This was my school that I was about to leave for-hopefully-ever. It was bitter-sweet ... I'm just kidding, it was totally sweet. I am so grateful for high school, but I am so grateful to be moving on with my life.

I won a few awards, which I am super proud of. I'm actually more proud of these awards than I am of any of the scholarships that I won. I am more proud of them than the fact that I was voted most likely to succeed by my classmates. There is something special about being recognized for all of the hard work you do. I always enjoyed receiving awards in elementary school ... I guess that enjoyment carried on into high school.

I first received the English award from Mr. Ward (my senior English Literature teacher). It may not look like it on my blog, but I love English with all of my heart. I love learning the history of English and reading and writing ... the whole she-bang. This year, I worked really hard on learning things for me. This really paid off in English. I went from being a super passionate student with little interest in learning and a lot of interest in earning the grade to being a super passionate student with an interest in learning and accepting whatever grade came because of that. There were a lot of challenges to that attitude this year, but it was such a great experience. For that award, I got a nice card from Mr. Ward, a medal, and Republic by Plato.

Next, I received the Journalism award (also awarded by Mr. Ward, but given by my journalism teacher, Mr. Tucker). I was Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper this year and it was such an interesting responsibility. For the first semester, I had the hardest time delegating responsibilities and letting other people help me. It was such a hard semester. I was putting in hours of extra-curricular work by myself and I just felt like I was on my own. Sattaporn and Savannah jumped on board next semester, specifically because I mentioned that I would really like people to be in the class with me that liked me. I eased up and let others help me and show their competency. I delegated tasks to others. The second semester was still hard, but it was so much more enjoyable! I really have learned a lot about life from journalism. It was a perfect outlet for writing and creativity; I plan to continue with journalism through college.

Like my English award, I got a medal for Journalism. I also got a gift bag that was filled to the brim with sentimental things. The only time I cried during graduation day was while I was sorting through that bag. Inside was a journal and a copy of All the President's Men (a book about Watergate that I had been asking to borrow from Mr. Tucker for ages) and a copy of the movie (which I LOVED). There was also a journalist's notepad and a note from Mr. Tucker. He has been such a mentor in my high school education. I had him as a freshman English teacher, as a Shakespeare teacher, A+ tutor sponsor, and then as a journalism adviser, but he has been so much more. He infuriated me because he told me that my standard of excellence wasn't good enough as a freshman, but he pushed me to become a fantastic writer. He listened to me when I was frustrated and listened when I just needed to cry and let it all out (true story, I broke down in front of him sophomore year). Mr. Tucker was such a motivator for me and his support and encouragement continues to help me.

Just as soon as I finished bawling, I got called up for an award that I totally was not expecting. I was honored to receive the History award ... and I'm not exaggerating when I say honored. When I was a freshman and sophomore, I hated going to my history classes. I didn't feel challenged ... I felt like we were trying to be taught specifically so we could pass the standardized test that we had to pass at the end of the year. Now that I think about it, that has been my experience EVERY year except for this year. This year, I took super challenging AP courses for history (Political Science and US History). It was kind of scary, because I knew that the workload was going to be intense if I wanted to do well on the test. I'm not going to lie, it was intense. I read over 1,500 pages worth of textbooks, churned out 20-30 pages of material every few weeks, and studied non-stop. As I invested that time in the classes, I grew to LOVE history. I became more and more self-motivated and more and more interested in the subject. My teachers were so supportive of me and they helped me believe that I could do well on the AP tests and in the future. It was a full 180 switch in my experience. I was really excited that my teachers recognized the effort that I put into these classes and were willing to put my name up in front of the whole school.

Minsy and I after Passing of the Torch.

Passing of the Torch was over sooner than I would have liked to believe and we were shuffled outside to head down to the football field for outdoor graduation practice. This was just a glorified run through of what we were going to be doing for tomorrow. Dylan (another valedictorian) and I announced a special element ofour valedictorian speech to the class. We picked up tickets. Then the general class was released to go paaaaartay until we were to meet at 6 at the school. The valedictorians stayed behind for an hour or two to practice our speech, which ended up being a very good thing. We had struggled for so long to write the speech that there was very little time for us to practice. Thank goodness Mr. Ward and his wife were willing to help us. I definitely direct all of the credit to them.

After our practice, I went home to chill with the fam before graduation. I love my family, and I love that my Aunt Laurenda and my little cousins were willing to come down for the graduation (even though my aunt was 8 months pregnant at that time). I was horribly sunburnt from the practice graduation and a little tired, but I made it a point to hang out with all of my family a little bit before I left for graduation. Leaving for graduation was just like leaving for any other event (except I was a little more dressed up). It was finally time.

It was fun to see all of my friends dressed up in their graduation gowns. In about three hours, I realized that I would probably never see the majority of them again. It was sad ... (and this time I'm being sincere). There were a lot of people that I grew to care for during the past year that I would never see. There were life long friends that I would never see. We were all starting different chapters to our lives. Somehow, I knew that it would be a-ok, but it was still difficult to come to terms with.

We were loaded on to buses and shipped over to the middle school. Ah, the hall of higher learning that I struggled so badly in. I felt triumph as I walked through these halls to the very front of the line. As silly as that sounds, it is true. Look at me, I thought as I walked towards the rest of the valedictorians, I got through this place and am now on a fast track to success. Haaaaahaa! While in line, the valedictorians got yet another medal. I practiced shaking hands and receiving my diploma from my dad. We took a picture outside of all of the valedictorians ...

And then the graduation march started. Oh, what a wonderful sound. I had a lot of thoughts as I walked, many of which were completely sentimental. I sat down and waited for the rest of the class to be seated (which took forever ... I empathize with the band). After a few remarks from Mrs. Blackburn, our school district's superintendent, the valedictorians were recognized and brought up on the stage for our speech.

Like I mentioned before, getting our speech to be right was such a struggle. It is super hard to coordinate thirteen different speeches to flow coherently. Our theme was number, simply because we spent thirteen years in school, had thirteen valedictorians, and were graduating in 2013. The theme was clever, and with Mr. Ward and his wife's excellent advise and help, we had a pretty solid speech. The number that I was assigned was 1. I was the LAST speaker, which I thought was pretty stinking awesome. As I waited for my turn, I just observed my class. There were moments during the speech when everyone was laughing ... there were also moments when everyone was bawling. It was perfect. I'm not sure how my speech went, but for posterity, here are the words:

And, finally we are ONE. Each of the 400 members of this class is a different individual. Due to our close connection to the military, we call different places home. We experience different friendships and interactions with others on a daily basis. We are devoted to different interests and extracurricular activities. Our plans for the future vary. We are so uniquely different, yet we are remarkably the same. We experience the joy that comes with acing a test and the heartache that inevitably follows suffering and loss. We know the appeal of going to Walmart when there is nothing else to do. We also know what it takes to wake ourselves up and get ready for school, despite the comfort and warmth of our own beds. We grew as one student body this year under the watchful eyes of God. This is only one day, but it is a significant day. It is our last day of being together as Waynesville Tigers. After today, our paths will differ; however, we will always consider ourselves lucky to be connected through what we have accomplished by graduating tonight. Although we are many, we are one. We are the Class of 2013.
After saying "We are the Class of 2013," the entire class shouted it in unison. It was a pretty sweet moment.
I sat back down ...  and then I was the first person of the class of 2013 to graduate.

I didn't mess up the handshake. I gave my dad a huge hug. I took my picture. I sat back down. And then the four hour wait began ... as every single member of my class went up to get their diploma, I was amazed to see how many people I didn't know. I was also amazed to see how many people I did know. I don't think I was very popular in school, but I did try to get to know people and to be nice to everyone ... and I guess I never realized that these friendly hello's in the hallway or small conversations were actually creating friendships that I cherished.

After the ceremony was said and done, I went out onto the football field and greeted my friends and family that had come to see me. So many people showed up that I had grown to love throughout my schooling. I am so grateful for these relationships that I made. I think, really, that these relationships are the crowning achievement of my high school experience. These were more important to me than any award or recognition I received.

So, I graduated. I still don't feel like a gradutate, but life has been just dandy. Soon, I will begin college ... I don't really know what to expect, but if it is even a little bit better than high school, I know that I will have an awesome time. I am so excited to see how the Lord will continue to bless and direct my life!

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