Almost a whole year ago, I graduated from high school. Last Saturday, a lot of the people I saw on a daily basis for most of my pre-college years went up and received their diploma, and like me, will soon be on the fast track to adulthood. And all across the nation at about this time, high school seniors by the hundred (or dozen, I’ve met some kids from pretty small schools up in da UP) are going to be leaving through the front doors of their high school for the very last time as a student. They’re sure to be feeling a whole onslaught of emotions. Just like I did last year.
On June 6, 2012, I wrote a blog post called “Dorsey on Graduation.” It summed up my feelings on my graduation and me taking my next big step in this crazy event called life. It was the closest any of my posts has gone into my “serious mode,” if you will, a state of mind that seems to come into my head at completely inappropriate intervals when I’m trying to think of something stupid and funny to put on this blog to trick my readers into thinking that I’m some goofy, lighthearted individual who totally has his act together (spoiler alert: I really don’t).
I usually just hide those thoughts away and bitch about them when I’m with a close friend, but due to the fact that I had no close friends in proximity at the time, and that this whole graduation thing is apparently a really big deal in the United States, I just threw it all together into a blog post, drew a couple pictures on MS Paint, and posted it, none the wiser.
It’s my most-viewed post by a pretty heavy margin, which first of all just makes me feel absolutely wonderful about my joke-telling abilities. But furthermore, I guess my thoughts on my ending of high school seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people.
That being said, I went through a lot of crazy shenanigans my first two semesters of college (no cocaine I promise). I built new bridges and burned some as well. I feel that I’ve walked out of my freshman year at NMU a completely different person than I was when I went in. Just for kicks and giggles, I took a look at that post again. And looking at what I said last June, things surprisingly, are a lot different.
For the first half of that post, I talked about how much I absolutely hated high school. I clearly haven’t been gone long enough to truly miss it (if I’m still blogging when I’m 40, I’ll probably do a neat little piece on the glory days of high school…if I don’t die laughing at the thought of that first), but at the same time, I really don’t think I hated it that much.
I remember leaving behind a whole mess of friends and acquaintances, making (mostly) uninspired promises to come visit them when I was out at college. I remember thinking as I walked out of the hallowed halls of Park Senior High School for the very last time, that I’d be able to keep in touch with all those people via Facebook or Twitter or a simple text message. There were still a lot of people I genuinely liked, and I would definitely get a kick out of coming back and seeing all my old friends again.
And then I came back.
Now, as you may know, I go to Northern Michigan University, which is a solid seven and a half hours worth of driving from my hometown. As my parents dropped me off at college with a $400 bike for transport means, I can’t exactly say that I made it back home to visit all that often.
I came home a grand total of four times before Summer Vacation started, and as each time passed, I slowly started realizing…
…I’m growing up, and high school isn’t.
There’s something truly haunting about going in to see all of your old friends, only to find that the only real conversations you’ve had during your time back was with your old teachers rather than your old friends. Don’t get me wrong, I missed a lot of my old pals, and I loved being able to spend time with them again, but when I’m talking to them face-to-face, joking with them, just seeing them, there was something different. To them, I’m an old friend returning as if nothing has ever happened. To me, they were…still just kids.
In Dorsey on Graduation, I then went on and on in that graduation post about how I felt like a “liger” at my school. I didn’t have a set place with friends. I roamed friend groups and was never really a permanent feature in many the friend groups that I considered myself a part of. And now, going back to high school, just to briefly visit, I felt even more alienated than I did back in Junior High, which is really saying a lot, because Junior High was a living hell for anyone who had to go through Junior High.
But that thought, that I was a liger in high school, stuck with me beyond just that graduation post. It’s been a constant thought since then in ways I couldn’t even fathom, let alone describe. I’ve actually used that term when talking with people at college, and they all agreed that it was a pretty good way to look at my high school years (and only one was intoxicated, so my logic therefore is infallible). And oddly enough, what started out as just a joke rant ended up sticking with me much longer than I had originally intended, and I had no idea why.
Oddly enough, I found out why in the last place I would ever think of looking (isn’t that always how these self-realization posts go?).
I was eating pancakes in NMU’s scene shop about four days after Legally Blonde had its last show.
As I stuffed my mouth with delicious syrupy goodness, one of the soon-to-be graduates turned to me and said that I looked older.
I’ve always “seemed older.” In eighth grade, a student teacher said I was “mature for my age.” During a rehearsal for Avenue Q in December, a couple of my newer friends told me that they thought I was a transfer student. One even asked if I wanted to go barhopping with him (granted, he’s not the sharpest guy out there, but I was flattered nonetheless). Maybe that’s what the whole “liger” thing is about. I certainly felt older every time I went back and visited my high school, and me looking at all the immaturity and hypocrisy in a lot of my peers back in my Junior and Senior Years would have been seen to some as “older person thoughts,” even if my routine bitching about them was pretty childish. But I guess that’s just how I am. And that’s probably how I always will be. I can just imagine myself planning my retirement by the time I’m 30, which will probably be good, as my art degree and lack of social security when I turn 65 means I should take all the post-work planning I can get.
But, after this magical journey of finding myself, and finding why exactly I am a liger, I’m still not happy. I’m pretty sure that it’s my Art-major neuroses developing (do we all have to be bipolar? It’d be pretty neat to just draw cartoons and smile, that’s a lot more fun), but the fact that I figured out this whole “liger” thing and was proud on that bit of character growth came with a really big issue I had with my post from a year ago.
It was a small paragraph where the rant delved into how I didn’t expect to miss anyone because of the likes of Facebook, Twitter, texting, and other forms of communication. I said that I wouldn’t miss that many people because I could always shoot them a message or remind them I exist by liking their profile picture update.
And for the first month of college, I did a pretty good job at that. I Skyped a few of my friends, I texted them on a weekly, if not daily basis, and I did my best to stay up to date with their day-to-day lives.
But here’s the thing. I hate texting. I hate Facebook messaging. Skyping somebody does nothing to keep them in your day-to-day life. One thing I noticed as I went through my freshman year was that the more I missed someone, the less able I was able to truly connect with him or her. They may have been just a quick text away, but they still weren’t there. And it just made me hate it more.
And then when I finally went back and got to see them again, there was something missing. The camaraderie was gone, but the things that made them such good friends were still there. Something was different with them, but they hadn’t changed. I had.
I ended up spending most of my Christmas and Spring Break cooped up in my room, and so far, Summer Vacation has been more of the same. I don’t feel connected to most of my old friends in the way that I was less than nine months ago.
And I hate it. I hate that I can’t feel a connection with these kids anymore. I hate that when I see most of them, my first descriptive word is “kid.” I didn’t even know it was possible to miss people when they haven’t changed and are right next to you again.
I guess I’m partially to blame because I decided to burn most of my bridges and haul off to Michigan, but I can’t imagine it being much different if I stayed in-state for college. This moving on thing probably still would have happened, or I would have remained a perpetual high schooler for another two or three years, and I can honestly say I don’t want to stay young…at least until I’m 30.
Sure, high school told me that life was hard. It told me that friends don’t necessarily stay, that good things rarely come without bad things, and that bad things can often be blessings in disguise, but it never told me this.
What the hell, high school? You were supposed to teach me how to live! You were supposed to prepare me for life! You never mentioned taxes, drifting friends, perspective changes, job woes, loneliness, general grumpiness, and you barely gave me a taste of how the world is cruel and unfair.
But maybe there is something to learn out of this. Since I graduated, I’ve decided to try and be a lot more positive about life. To look at things from a humorous perspective. To not be such a sarcastic douche—okay that last one is a lie.
The point is, I just typed out nearly two thousand words of confusion-riddled mind-panic. And just having typed it out makes me actually feel a lot better. I’ll have to keep a mental note to blog about the therapeutic powers of blogging later. But I’m also working on feeling a lot better because, like I said in the last paragraph, I’m looking for the bright side more often.
And it's tricky, especially as it’s not really a bright side. The thing is, graduating high school didn’t really prepare me for life at all. And based on the sheer terror of not having a job and dying alone in my now-graduated college friends, I don’t expect college to have all the answers either. And there’s no point in dwelling in the past and trying to remake the good things or to find the answers there, because that hasn’t exactly helped me these past couple weeks. Come August, I’m going to be back in college, without my old friends from High School. Again. But I belong there now, so I guess there’s that. Even if it does suck to leave again.
Will I miss what I was in High School? Of course I will. Will I miss the people I leave behind? Without a doubt. Will I just give up on my old friends, even if the times have changed? Not at all. But will I accept the fact that sometimes change sucks and take each of these blows life gives me in stride and use these changes to come out a better, stronger person?
Probably not, seeing as I still have a whole extra year of teenage angst before I turn 20.
But that’s not going to keep me from trying.