Life’s Diploma

It takes 50,544,000 seconds of our lives to earn a high school diploma.

For twelve years we have woken up, arrived at school, and “learned” together. I may not yet know how to balance a checkbook or do my taxes, but I now know how to solve a factorial equation and analyze a book written in the 1800’s.  But the most important things I learned these past 842,400 minutes were not lessons I was taught in the classroom. My diploma does not reflect my academic skills as much as it does the important beliefs that I have gained from my twelve years of school–especially high school.

Throughout my 12,960 hours at school I was indirectly taught life skills. Which perhaps is the actual purpose of waking up at 7 a.m. each day and dragging ourselves to an educational hot-spot. I owe very much of who I am today to the people I have been surrounded by for twelve years. My thoughts reflect those around me due to natural human dependency. Therefore the ideas that have stuck with me are because somewhere along my schooling timeline I was enlightened by someone who was enlightened by someone else.

The most substantial idea I have learned because of school rejects the classic advice that “first impressions are everything.” If first impressions mean everything, why in my senior year am I gaining new friendships with people I have known since my first day of kindergarten?  First impressions are just another way of society telling us how to judge each other by our appearances rather than our minds. The friendships I plan on maintaining after graduation are the ones with the people I have had the most insightful conversations with, not the ones that invited me to the most parties. I cannot even remember the first time I saw most of the people I see every single day, so why do we put such pressure on first impressions?

I have never been a strong math student, but my shortcomings in math wound up teaching me an important life lesson.  My tutor, a fellow senior, is someone I have known since middle school. Yet sitting down learning the subject I hate most taught me so much about him and his kindness, a characteristic I thought VHS seriously lacked.  People say that our character is reflected in how we treat people that cannot do anything for us. He willingly gave up a good amount of his time to help a fairly perplexed girl understand math, who in return wasted his study period multiple times. I was humbled that he would be so generous, simply because little ole’ me needed help. It is easy to make assumptions about people, like I did, and label every kid in high school as a selfish person with shallow motives. But looking in unnoticed places provides a new perspective that makes all the difference.

From the beginning of school we are taught to look at people a certain way based on what turns out to be insignificant features. We eventually get stuck with the preconceived reputation we are given. High school labels people for them, with some kids will always struggle to get noticed.  But our lives after high school are solely dependent on ourselves. Every day I see people mainly care about their lives in Verona, what parties they were or were not at, what they wore to school, what house they stayed at during Memorial Day weekend or what their friend’s tweet really meant.  We are so wrapped up in our little world, we do not realize the opportunities surrounding us. We compete with each other because we do not want to be forgotten, but the people that forget us do not deserve a memory of us. We should be proud of who we are without comparing ourselves to others.

Lastly and most importantly, I learned through my 2,160 days of school the significance of family. My family has supported me from day one and hopefully they will support me until the end. I work hard in school because it makes my parents proud and without their endless support I would not be going to my first choice college.  I am beyond lucky to be a part of a family I adore. And whatever your definition of family, what truly matters is the love. And when most people leave for college, they will not have the luxury of seeing their “families” everyday.

In twenty years I will not remember who I sat across from in History, but I will remember the friends I had that understood me, the unexpected kindness people offered, and my relationship with my family. Although my high school diploma has not given me the skills to become a mathematician, it has taught me lessons I will carry with me for the rest of my life.