My beloved niece Kiwi begins her senior year of high school today. In the midst of all the talk of it and her excitement of it finally arriving, I realized that this marks the 25th anniversary of my own senior year. Twenty-five years! It had never occurred to me before! But my own experiences of high school are very different from Kiwi’s life.
You may recall my mentioning that the teen years were less than pleasant for me, having moved away from my childhood home between freshman and sophomore years of high school. I was already an awkward and introverted fifteen-year-old by that time, uncomfortable with my physicality and even more uncomfortable with social interactions, so dropping me into a town I’d never before heard of with people who had essentially grown up together since birth was nothing short of devastating. I’d lived in my previous town since second grade, had finally reached a level of acceptance and comfort with a small group of friends whom I adored and who loved me back, and during freshman year I finally began to feel like I belonged and that my high school years were going to be epic. I was crushed, then — shattered, even — when my parents announced my dad’s promotion and subsequent need to move to a town located more than an hour north of Dallas and within only a few miles of the Oklahoma border. Oklahoma! It was the end of civilization for me! And I wanted no part of it.
I’d love to say I adjusted to the change over the course of the next few years, but I never did. I spent my entire adolescence feeling sorry for myself and angry at the state of my life, and by senior year I was thinking only of how I could get out of that town — it never did feel like “home” to me — and how life would certainly be so much better when I was “on my own.” Looking back I can only shake my head and laugh at that miserable young girl. But I also can’t say I’d do anything different. I’m still no better at entering new situations than I was at fifteen, though at least I know how to pretend a bit now. But not in 1986. Back then I was hopeless.
In ’86, as my first day of senior year arrived, I still had no close friends and no big dreams for the future. My niece, on the other hand, is filled with hope and joy. She’s had the benefit, so to speak, of living her entire life in one small country town and going to school with many of the same people every year of her life. She has some of the same friends now that she’s had since elementary school. People have watched her grow up since birth. And in Kiwi’s mind, senior year has always been one of the greatest times of life. She’s wise enough to know that it’s not the ultimate phase of life, of course, but she also knows it could become the stuff of legend. She’s grown up hearing stories of “the glory days” from her own father and friends, who all spent their high school years in the same town she lives in now. Kiwi has never expected her senior year to be anything less than glorious, and to finally arrive is one of her first dream-come-true moments. It’s hard not to get caught up with her in such excitement! Today she will experience a senior caravan to the campus, a senior breakfast before classes, a decorated locker by senior parents (her own mom / my sister), and a class schedule that reflects a bit of ease in academics. During the next few months she will experience the football season as a drill team officer and leader among her peers, and in the spring she will begin to have a series of “lasts” that will be both fun and bittersweet. I felt very few of these things twenty-five years ago. I’m thrilled that Kiwi’s experiences are so much greater and more special than anything I ever even dreamed of having, and I can’t wait to watch her walk through these days. I hope I can help her document them, as well, so her memories are established for years to come.
Congratulations, sweet girl! You are truly awesome and these are most certainly great days!