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Preparing for the Next Step

A graduate expresses his opinion about what graduation means to him.

For twelve years now, my life has carried a consistency—a monotony—due to school. School buildings have changed, after school sports and activities have been picked up and dropped, I even started driving to school. But it was all centered on school. The school thought the universe revolved around him! Well… it did.

In June, something happened that threw consistency right out the window and freed me from my tight orbit around school: The Westfield High School Class of 2010, of which I am part, graduated.

In reality, my world is still consumed by school—perhaps more than ever. But unlike in past summers, where I knew that the next year really wouldn't be all that different from the last, there isn't a single thing I can anticipate about September. For sure, my little personal planet will still orbit a school star, but it will be an unfamiliar one located in a galaxy far, far away.

The best piece of advice I received about graduation was offered unintentionally by WHS principal Peter Renwick. At the first of our graduation rehearsals, Renwick addressed the entire class and said: "This is a very special moment for all of you. Don't mess this up."

Of course, he was speaking to us about discipline at the ceremony. The words "Don't mess this up," though, resonated with me on the first few weeks of post-high school. What was the "this?"

"This" is life after high school. It being Westfield, the large majority of us will be going off to college. Don't mess that up, Renwick told us.

Life, for us, will never be the same. Our entire 18 or so years have been spent living with our parents; being generally financially dependent; and, especially in our earlier years, we required much moral support. Part of being a kid is having parents pinch hit in your place when the situation is just a little too difficult, too overwhelming.

Life, for the next four years, will be a limbo between kid and independence. Many of us will remain financially dependent throughout college, and we will most likely live at home during holiday breaks and after graduation until we can stand on our own.

On the other side of that coin, what will be lost by going away to school is the day to day guardianship our parents provide. Our security is being stepped down, and going off to college is the biggest step we've taken thus far. The final step will ultimately culminate in us moving out altogether.

The sum of this equation, which includes financial dependence and our childhood bedroom whenever we need it, but excludes constant surveillance, is what going away to college is all about.

With our new freedom, whether we make it or break it will, for the first time, be entirely up to us.

Renwick was right: graduation was a very special moment for all of us. Now that it's over, let's not mess it up.

Editor's Note: Josh Solomon will be starting classes at Northwestern University on Sept. 21.

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