Commencement is a time of reflection. To remember us of our roots and maintain our modesty, but to acknowledge our successes and perseverance against adversity. To remind ourselves that regardless of the obstacles life throws in our way, we can, and will continue to move forward.
The end is almost upon us – the culmination of years of hard work and memories, all articulating to create a period of our lives that is unique and yet serves as the backbone for our growth to adulthood. It’s easy to dream about what we have to come, but not everything we’ve left behind. Nostalgia is a cruel reminder of our regrets and painful memories, but our past is part of the wonderful mosaic that makes us unique, and leaving it behind serves no greater purpose than to provide a temporary happiness that will fade eventually.
High school is a time of risk-taking, failing, laughing, crying…it’s odd and unique in the sense that it is a culmination of things we dread and things we cherish. It’s a time where we’re allowed to act like ‘reckless teenagers’ but have to keep a level head to secure our futures. It’s almost like a stepping stone, a process that (somewhat) prepares us for the cruelties and challenges of the real world by showing us what it’s like to be under constant stress and pressure to succeed, all the whilst allowing us to grasp on the fragments of childhood innocence that allowed us to do the things we loved.
It seems like only yesterday I was an eager and nervous freshman, anxiously awaiting the ‘horrors’ of high school that I’d so often heard about in movies and pop culture.
I must admit, almost all the stereotypes were greatly exaggerated or practically nonexistent, so the social stresses of high school diminished over time, especially once they were coupled with the growing academic pressures.
Nobody warned us of the emotional, mental, and physical toll that 5 years of diligent academic stress, coupled with the pressures of maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family, all the whilst growing a cache of volunteer activities, would have on our spirits.
Our dreams were slowly crushed and replaced with the ideal that in order to succeed, we must be the best, no matter the cost.
success is not defined by academic standing
But as I neared the end of my high school journey, it dawned on me that success is not defined by academic standing or the number of extracurriculars, it is defined by the level of dedication to one’s passions, the extent to which we can contribute to our society and our world in a positive way. Success may be subjective, but in no means is it determined by anyone else, it is our own success and contentment with our accomplishments, and our failures and how we respond to them, that define our self worth.
To be completely honest, the fact that I even get to graduate knowing that my education did not limit me but rather opened me up to new ideas and possibilities, is an idea that is still settling within me. I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that only 10 years ago, the only notion I had of high school was from American movies and TV, and things like a commencement ceremony and prom were only fragments of my imagination, far from realities. Now, to think that my prom and graduation ceremony are only weeks away, makes me realize how much my life truly has changed over the years. It’s easy to take these things for granted, but we mustn’t forget how truly fortunate we are to live in a society where all these things are available.
I remember last year when I was complaining hysterically over the possibility of my parents moving our family to Langley midway through the school year (which ended up becoming a reality), and my mother responded saying: “you think if we hadn’t decided to leave behind everything in Iran you’d ever even had the chance to experience life in Canada? Everything you have now is because we decided to take a risk, and it hasn’t been easy, and it won’t be easy, but the fact that we’re living in a free and democratic country right now is all because we took a chance on life.”