Fly high, Class of 2022

Aditya Thiyag | The Chronicle

Everyone’s heard of a coming-of-age story.

A classic tale of a teenager transitioning into adulthood and finally realizing what to do with their lives while they overcome their inner conflict and climatically find themself as the credits roll on a film or the last page of a book or the closing track of an album. But there’s always one thing that these stories have missed the mark on.

It’s the time between accepting the reality of adulthood and entering it.

For some seniors, the past year has been a frantic mess of college-related events. Scrutinizing every detail of a college essay, waiting with bated breath for a college decision, and texting random strangers on Facebook, hoping that one of them might be your future roommate are all defining moments for a college-bound student. For those pursuing apprenticeships and military opportunities, this academic year has largely been characterized by learning about what their future aspirations entail and being heralded or dismissed for their decision to pursue alternate methods of education. And for everyone else in between, it’s been a year to spend with loved ones and either savor every second in the building or count down the days they have until they leave.

Surrounding the senior class as a whole, however, there’s been an air of finality pervading every one of our actions and events, from the last homecoming football game to senior prom.

We’ve spent our entire lives with an external figure establishing and incorporating a set structure into our lives to abide by. Regardless of how personalized our learning has become over time, the school has still given us set times for eating, learning, and working as well as guidelines for how to best learn. As soon as we walk across that stage on graduation day and we throw our caps high into the air, we’re congratulated for making it through high school before any and all external structure swiftly leaves our lives. So we ask ourselves a simple question.

Now what?

There are graduation parties to throw and friends to hang out with but when the festivities are over, what comes next for us? We might have plans for higher education, sure, institutions where we hope to learn and gain experience by attending, but our class, like many others before us, is wading into a sea of unknowns with no instructions on where to go next. We can’t do laps anymore because we’ve gotten too old for the pool that we’ve been raised in and there’s no lifeguard at sea to guide us either.

The only semblance of comfort we are given is that we are all diving headfirst into something new, together.

I am excited about life after high school and being exposed to a plethora of new ideas but the existential dread that I feel isn’t rooted in worries about making new friends or staying in touch with the ones I have here in Mason. It’s the anxiety that I feel knowing that despite not everything in my future is in my control, I will be the one that has to figure out what to do on a regular basis and make decisions for myself while facing each and every individualized consequence.

So if you’re feeling that way right now as you’re trying on your cap and gown, mailing out graduation party invitations, and feverishly checking Facebook and Instagram messages from potential roommates, look around at your fellow senior friends. You’re not in this alone.

Illustration by Alisha Verma