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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

Just once

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