I graduated high school ten years ago this month. I love this time of year—not just because I love warm weather, but because there is so much optimism about the future. I love graduation speeches and columns—especially Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young—and I love seeing new graduates enter the world with unbridled enthusiasm about where their passions can lead.
I haven’t spent a ton of time thinking about my decade since high school, mostly because I use my undergraduate celebrations as a marker of time now. But one of the things I remember most about the weeks leading up to that big day in 2009 was that I was stressed about what I was going to wear. (Classic.) My high school colors were purple, black, and white—and for some reason, mostly likely a decades-old tradition, all the women were given white gowns to wear, while the men all wore purple. This meant that—by default since our gowns were see-through—all the gals at my high school wore white dresses.
In case you don’t remember the early days of the Obama administration, this was an era before online shopping had really taken off, so my graduating class of around 900 all shopped at the same suburban mall. As you can imagine, this led to a high risk of buying the same white dress as about 40 other people, and I really wanted to avoid this predicament. Since I had such a clear vision of what style of white dress I wanted and was an early adopter of the possibilities of internet thanks to my years coding Myspace pages (RIP), I was able to find the ~perfect dress online. The next step in this online shopping pioneering process was convincing my mom to lend me her credit card number to input on a website long, long before things were encrypted. Luckily, my year on the debate team paid off, and my white dress arrived a week later. It fit perfectly, and was a dress I brought with me to college—and it came in handy at many a sorority initiation.
The other thing that stands out during those last weeks of my high school experience was something special my AP Lit teacher did on our last day of class.
I say this genuinely, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard or been so stressed as I was in high school. Sure, I worked hard in college, but I aways felt like I could skate by a bit because I was so much better prepared and better equipped with study habits than a lot of my peers. I also had no desire to go to grad school at the time, so I mostly was keeping my grades up for a job versus trying to hit specific goals for a Masters program. But in high school, I worked my ass off and put unnecessary pressure on myself to succeed. (I guess you really do mellow out with age.)
My AP Lit teacher recognized this perfectionist trait about our first period class early on, and always was such a great beacon of light as we were trying to navigate this awkward time of our lives. (Side note—our first period class started at 7:20am. WHAT?! I don’t even get up until 7:30am on workdays. No wonder I was stressed. But, I digress.)
On our last day of class, which was our last day of high school, she sat on her stool in the front of our class and told us that while high school felt like it flew by, college would really go fast, and that we should enjoy every. last. second. (Spoiler alert—she was right.) She also told us that high schoolers weren’t read aloud to enough, and she wanted to leave us with some words of inspiration. She proceeded to read us Oh the Places You’ll Go, and my eyes weren’t dry by the end. Something about surviving one of the hardest years ever, and having such a simple, but poignant, book read aloud to me made me feel so safe, loved, heard. It really is the little things.
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
PS—much like that high school graduation dress, I bought this one online— and you can, too, here.
*** SHOP THE POST ***
Mint Julep Boutique Maxi
Circular Straw Bag—similar here
Round Retro Oversized Sunglasses
Baublebar Tassel Earrings—similar here
Forever 21 Straw Bag—similar here and here
Photos by Kimberly Graydon