Last Friday’s high school graduation marked an ending on many fronts. From now on, there will be no more bells to organize the day, no more waking up early for “A” periods, no more standardized testing, and no more proms or homecomings.
Following the ceremony, the Class of 2010 enjoyed Grad Night into the early hours of the morning. San Ramon Valley High School was transformed into a fantasyland with themes such as “The Matrix” and “Alice and Wonderland.” As the night ended, we graduates made both a literal and figurative passage from the “Unreal World” to the “Real World.” It was a thought-provoking note to end four years of high school on.
By the time senior year arrives, students are well accustomed to the structured environment of primary education. And upon graduation, many students, including me, have had enough of the artificiality of high school. Few of us can see how many of the classes we take and many of the extracurricular activities we put ourselves through actually prepare us for the rest of our lives. The inflexible bureaucracy of the school administration and the college-entrance boards frustrates us. It all seems a bit false, a bit “unreal.” We are ready for change and new beginnings in our lives. “Bring on the real world,” we say.
Many of us hope to find this new beginning next year in college; others hope to find it elsewhere. But college does seem to promise change. Very few people, sometimes even no one, knows who you are the minute you step on campus. College is a chance to form new connections with others. The drama of teenage-life is scaled back. And you alone are responsible for your own success, not your parents or teachers or friends.
That we’re leaving the “unreal world” of high school for the “real world” of college and beyond is an exciting thought, but I know it’s an oversimplified view and too rose-tinted to be true.
In college, in our careers, and indeed for the rest of our lives, we will continue to encounter facets of the “unreal world.” While in high school we prepared ourselves for college, in college we will prepare ourselves for the jobs we will someday have. As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, more and more college degrees will be difficult to find employment with. Unfortunately, following our passions may carry us towards an education, but not necessarily to an occupation.
Upon graduating from college, we are again ready for a new beginning. More applications will await us as we look to enter graduate school or to hold a job. While there may not be any more bells to organize our days, we certainly have demanding work schedules ahead of us. We might not have “A” periods anymore, but many of us will be waking up early with long hours of work in front of us. There may not be any more standardized testing, but surely we will be evaluated by our employers on a routine basis. The educational bureaucracy was nothing compared to say, dealing with the IRS. Try as we might, we never really leave “unreality” behind for our ideal realities.
High school graduation is an important life milestone and we should enjoy the moment. However, we should not hold on to the delusion that graduation is the beginning of the “real world.”
If the world around us essentially remains the same, then it is we who change. As we grow older and more mature we begin to accept that the “unreal world” is here to stay. We learn that the doors of the “real world” –– a place where we can discover truth and meaning, are not opened up to us merely by a high school graduation.
There is a well-known commencement quote that goes, “Graduation is only a concept. In real life every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life. If you can grasp that, you'll make a difference.” Receiving our diplomas in itself does not make us any wiser. Rather it is what we do beyond high school, for the rest of our lives, that allows us to push the limits of our own realities.
The Teen Wire provides a perspective on today's youth in the face of a changing world. Daniel Morizono, a graduate of San Ramon Valley High School and who will be attending UCLA in the fall can be contacted at email@example.com.