Thinking back to the before times
Mon, 06/26/2023 - 11:28am
We’re nearing the end of May…and what a long month it’s been.
Actually, the past few weeks haven’t been as super busy as the same time span in other years. We are slowly nearing the end of the school year. Graduations will be taking place (St. Clair already had theirs almost two weeks ago), spring sports teams are starting section playoffs, and all the non-graduates will be itching to get out of school for another summer.
It’s hard to believe it will be seven years since I graduated from Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton this year. A lot has changed since I graduated. For example, back then construction on the JWP athletic complex was just beginning, which included upgrades to the football field, the track, and building a brand new softball field with artificial turf. Back in the day, the parking lot was gravel and the current softball field was nothing but grass that served as a practice area for my sixth-grade football team.
My class was among the first to experience the new and improved cafeteria. The media center has changed quite a bit, too: not the space itself, but everything inside of it. When I was a senior, there were still desks with desktop computers at each one of them; Chromebooks were just getting distributed. Now, there are tables arranged in a horseshoe pattern near the center of the media center where meetings happen while other parts of the media center have a lot of chairs that are either perfect for naps or which make your backside ache after ten minutes.
Another thing that changed was the class structure. There are a lot more clubs, including an attempt at a cosplay club from what I’ve heard. Now it seems like the norm for students to be taking college level courses; it was not that common when I was in school (at least from what I remember). There also seem to be a lot more hands-on classes. I think my graduating class served as the test for the advanced metal sculpture class, and I don’t honestly recall a chef who served the president of the United States ever visiting my cooking class.
It’s still pretty amazing how much time has passed by since I’ve graduated. When I first started writing this, I thought, “It only feels like two or three years since I graduated from JWP.” But the more I think about it, the more I realize it has felt like seven years.
It’s also hard to believe that the Class of 2023 is in the same “generation” as I am. Having been born in 1998, I am two years removed from being the last of the millennials. Eli and I are among the first to be born as members of what’s called Generation Z.
Things have changed so much since I’ve been in school that it’s hard to relate to the Class of 2023, even though they are in the same generation as I am. However it may seem, though, within a few years, they will be in the same boat as I’m in.
So, like all those proud parents, teachers, or principals, I’d like to offer the graduates some advice they didn’t ask for.
First off, life is going to be tough. Yes, your parents may have claimed you had it easy, but trust me. As a former high schooler, I guarantee you didn’t have it easy. But here’s the sad part: it won’t get any easier. People will still judge you, nothing will be simple, and you get more challenges added to your plate. You’ll soon have to have a job to pay for a roof over your head, anything that you want to own, and sooner or later, you’ll get introduced to the fantastic world of taxes.
But here’s where the optimism comes in: You get a fresh beginning. Everyone starts at level one again. Did you have bad grades? Sure, maybe you didn’t get into that one college you set your hopes on, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Were you bullied? Guess what? You’re on the same level as your bully. Oh, and the popular people have to regain their popularity in college and in life. Besides that, your popularity doesn’t have to be a determining factor in whether you succeed.
Don’t be afraid of failure. I’ve heard many times that schools are teaching kids to be afraid of failing. You are going to fail. You have no choice. If you don’t fail, you won’t learn, and you’ll be stuck where you are. Don’t be afraid to fail. (I wish I had understood this a few years ago.)
This includes plans not going your way. I went to school for music and I had to drop out in the middle of my junior year because I couldn’t afford to keep going. (Pro tip: Unless you’re rich or get enough scholarships to cover a majority of your schooling, don’t attend a private college like I did. That’s something I’m still paying for.)
Most of all, enjoy this summer. Say goodbye to everyone in your class at graduation. Chances are you will never see at least half of them ever again. You may not always have your friends around, either. I drifted apart from most of my high school friends. People move on, and that’s reality.
Congratulations to everyone that graduated and will graduate throughout this month and in June.