I thought I was done with high school. On the last day of class, or maybe it was during graduation, I vowed to never miss the place that held me captive for four years. I figured it was a ceremonious occasion, that is to leave one broken education system and enter another. At the time, there was little doubt that I would ever want to come back. I boasted myself superior and more mature than my counterparts. The things being taught, or so I claimed, were juvenile and fruitless. And I hated the last two months of summer heat. Perhaps I was a little more ready than the average person to leave for college. The thoughts and emotions, however, mattered little in a life already past a certain stage. High school was gone, never to be seen again. The final judgments were clear: I was ready to deride the notion of high school for the rest of my life. But, just like how we keep believing that this year will be the end of the world, finality never really materializes. When I finally stepped back into Bayside High School, to pick up a long-delayed diploma, the glorious smell of chlorine, surprisingly, reeked of familiarity. The musky air of humidity greeted me with a warm welcome. For all the new security guards and teachers, the recognizable ones made the place rather homey. I went down the hallways of the first floor and into the office where a good portion of my senior year went into the creation of the yearbook. The old virus-ridden Dell computers I used have finally been replaced by Macs. The air conditioner still had to be shut off every time someone used the microwave. And I took my iPhone out in no fear of the teachers and deans. I finally went to get my diploma, to my slight surprise they still had. The lady who found my diploma congratulated me on "finally graduating," to which I laughed and said "thank you." I wish some of my old high school teachers had that sense of humor.
Maybe it's a little weird that the culmination of four years of education and experience is largely embodied by a piece of paper. But that was what my diploma essentially meant, printed with an ordinary printer, with no acknowledgment of anything else. As I walked back to the office with my former chemistry teacher, the diploma felt light in value. What was meant to be a symbol of accomplishment turned into a souvenir that reminded me of why I even held this piece of paper. I figured the real reason I even came back wasn't really for my diploma. There's always a small sense of something that's within the hallways where someone spends a good portion of their teenage lives at. Maybe it's the teachers, from the one who yelled at you for being late on your first day of high school to the teacher who captivated and motivated you in a subject you wouldn't have thought possible a few years back. More times than not, we can't help but wonder what could have been. The friendships we make, kept or broken, are replayed for brief moments at the specific rooms that conjured a few spare moments of seemingly eternal happiness. If we're mesmerized by these few nostalgic moments, I think it's obvious we've lost these things, which is completely fine. The memories made back in high school usually stay best left in high school. And it's true that we can salvage a few spare minutes from the debris of our fragmented remembrance but nothing's whole and fruitful. All the things we've lost become a part of our present self, and had those things changed, there would be no knowing how our current lives would be. At the end of it all, I don't think I'd mind a few more days to spend in high school to relive the things never meant to happen.
I guess it's debatable whether or not we ever really graduate high school.