Yesterday marked the fifteen year anniversary of my high school graduation. As I sit here in my own classroom, now devoid of students awaiting Saturday’s graduation festivities, I realize two things:
I’m officially old. Not Jurassic Park old (though it did come out when I was in eighth grade), but older than I’ve ever been before.
I am so much better now than I could have imagined.
So it is with a nostalgic heart and a smile that I dedicate this, an account of my growth since I marched into that iconic theater in my purple gown so many years ago.
I am real.
Bigger than I was in high school, I would love to be somewhere between the size I was then and the size I am now. What matters the most, however, is that I am not totally defined by looking the way I think I should look. I am not skipping meals or eating like a sparrow to keep someone else happy. I am not convinced I am fat while my stomach is smaller than I ever thought it was. I am a real woman. Curvy, bumpy, and natural. And I’m almost ok with that.
I am intelligent.
In high school, I thought intelligence was defined by the classes I took and what my grades were. Now, more than a decade later, it is not the degree I hold that determines my intelligence; truth be told, I have learned far more from my life experiences than I did in high school and college combined. I’m still a work in progress, but the world around me makes more sense. And it scares the hell out of me. No longer trapped in the microcosm of high school, I know what lurks in the shadows. And in the sunlight. I know more than I ever thought needed to be learned.
I am valuable.
My worth goes far beyond what I could have understood fifteen years ago. My paychecks may never be grandiose, but there are aspects of my world that would cease to exist if I wasn’t there to take care of them. No one can ever be me. They may be good, or important, or often even more competent than me, but they will never be me.
I am genuine.
High school was a blur of trying to be liked and trying to belong. Things were said or left unsaid for the benefit of my peers. Now, I am what you see. Though I still often second guess myself, I am who I am. I will not lie or deceive to hide from the truth. Even if it is not a truth you want to hear. Or that I want to hear. Life if better when lived up front.
I am a fighter.
High school was a time of conformity. Now, I fight for the things that are important. I fight for my students, for they deserve more than they are sometimes given. They also deserve to be taught to fight for themselves, to prove their worth, and to value the knowledge that is given to them. I fight for my children because they are precious to me. They deserve the world, but they also must value it. I will fight for them until my last breath.
I am a mother.
This is, by far, the most important. My world was rocked when Maddie was born. She and her sisters are my greatest accomplishment. My days are lived for them. They are the reason that I know my worth. It is impossible to feel the love they give me and not feel both blessed and humbled. And so very important.
I am so much more now than I ever was then, but I still remember where I came from.
Here’s to the class of ’99. May we be strong, may we be wise, and may we leave this world a far better place than we found it.