KIARA HARRIS, San Clemente resident and San Juan Hills High School senior
I never thought I’d be doing this
Writing a poem about a place I never thought I’d miss
I cried on my first day because it was like a prison to my mind
But now I’m crying because I don’t want to leave it behind
Time seemed to drag then go full speed ahead without explanation
Now here I am at graduation
Nothing will be the same
Once they call my name
I’ll never be able to walk through these halls in the same way once I walk across that stage
Because this is the day that everything will change
The excitement, the fear, and the tears, it makes me all numb
A love-hate relationship if there ever was one
I look back on the past four years with pride
I look back on the past four years teary-eyed
The sadness you feel when someone tells you congratulations
Can only be found at graduation
When they hand me my diploma, how heavy will it feel?
Will I feel the weight of the future, a sense of the unreal?
Will the walk across the stage seem miles long in front of a crowd of a thousand or more?
Or will it seem far too short, only feeling like three steps—or four?
When I toss my cap into the air,
Will my vision be clear enough to watch its flight among the hundreds everywhere?
Or will I even be able to let it go?
I’ll try to keep the tears from falling, but I don’t have high expectations
Because I feel like crying even at the word “graduation”
The speeches, the songs, they all seem aimed at producing tears
And only more will fall when I hear all the cheers
I’ll sit in the stadium, one among hundreds, in the rows and rows of fold-up chairs,
Thinking about all the times I didn’t want to be there
Thinking about how next year my locker will be taken by someone new
And maybe they’ll be thinking of this place as a prison too
But soon it won’t be
Not when they have to leave
I’ll be thinking about where I sat in my favorite class because I don’t want to forget
Always in the back corner to minimize the attention I get
And then the days of laughing in class with my friends,
Never thinking about it all coming to an end
Now I’ll have my final conversation
With most, if not all, of them at graduation
And those times when I was almost late to class
And had to run faster than fast
And the nights when I was up to my neck in homework that I swore was impossible to get done
And I was angry that I never got to have any fun
But I did
And now I have no idea how I’ll feel saying the final goodbye
Time grows wings when you don’t want it to fly
When I stand with everyone else in the long, long line,
I’ll be wishing I could press rewind
How did I get here? How is it already graduation day?
Wasn’t I finger-painting just yesterday?
This cap and this gown look wrong on me
I’m only a child, only eighteen
I wrote my name inside my cap in pink so I can find it when it hits the ground
And every step I take, I’ll be trying not to trip over my gown
My heart is breaking, yet swelling with pride, a peculiar sensation
And one that could only be felt at graduation
A faraway voice: Now toss your caps up towards the sky, Class of ’22
I take a deep breath … and then I do
And now I know it must be a breathtaking sight, all those caps and tassels flying at once
All those tears falling at once
All the smiles and cheers erupting at once