Mattie’s Musings: Caps and Gowns and Textured Grounds

“The road to graduation has already started.” Mrs. Parker’s declaration punched me in the stomach. My classmates started to whisper but I tuned everything out.

It was the senior meeting, or I guess one of the senior meetings. It’s easy to get lost in the Common App meetings and the counseling meetings and the UC meetings and the college meetings and the meetings.

It would’ve been so easy to watch Parker’s words float right by me. My phone called to me.

Maybe in the other meetings I could fall into distraction, let my eyes gravitate toward the curls in the hair of the person in front of me, or toward Instagram and its comfortable pit of mindlessness. But not during this meeting.

My eyes weren’t drawn to the packet full of forms to be filled out, nor were they studying the excessive spread of merchandise with the word “Seniors!” plastered all over them, or the speaker who was desperately trying to force jokes into my ears.

I was watching my classmate on the gym floor.

He stood there, a few feet beside the speaker and display. He was wearing the whole outfit: cap and gown and tassel and cord and sash. At first, I laughed a little to myself. It’s like seeing those old pictures of a little kid wearing a miniature wedding dress, a toddler-sized business suit, a costume cap and gown.

But this wasn’t a little kid and this wasn’t a costume. These people sitting around me, they’re no longer my freshman Link Crew buddies, my sophomore Unity Day group mates. We’re not sitting on the other side of the gym during rallies, watching the backs of the Dance Troupe members as they perform for the upperclassmen and we’re not sneaking off campus during lunch, wishing to be one of the seniors.

We’re in our senior meetings, staring at caps and gowns.

As the meeting concluded, I stood at the top of the stands and studied the people as they floated out of the gym. I saw my classmates, friends, people I’ve never met before, all together. And then I saw them in caps and gowns and tassels.

Soon we will be there, unable to ignore the fact that we’re walking toward graduation because we will be walking at graduation.

Before freaking out, I had to remind myself that we are not there quite yet. We’re still stuck in these meetings, more focused on the fact that we’re seniors than the fact that we’re graduating.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that time is escaping us, but I’ve found that this worrying makes it speed up rather than slow down.

Worrying about AP tests took away the time that I was supposed to study for them. Worrying about what classes I should take junior year took away from the potential I had to enjoy my classes sophomore year.

Worrying about graduation is taking away from my senior experience.

Sure, the road to graduation has already started. But it’s not all about graduation; the road is important too. I want to feel that textured ground beneath my feet, to savor every step, to take it all in without peering too far into the future. I want to experience this.