By: Annushka Agarwal (Grade 9)
When a grade eight walks down the linoleum-floored halls of WPGA, they’re focused on the never-ending challenges of school. They don’t give a second thought to the fact that one day, they will no longer pass through the stylishly furnished lobby, or get a heart attack when scrolling through their grades on Wolfnet, or swing by the cafeteria to grab a cookie on their way to social studies.
For many of our grads, though, this is all that’s on their minds. At the beginning of their grade twelve year (and earlier, for some!), students begin to look at their high school not from the viewpoint of a busy student, but from one of someone who will soon be leaving. It occurs to many that Coffee House, Sports Day, and pizza lunches could all be some of their parting experiences with WPGA.
The reactions to this reality vary dramatically, as I very quickly discovered after interviewing some grads.
Some grads described the experience of leaving school as sad. This is far from unexpected, considering that many students have had similar peer groups from kindergarten. Dealing with leaving a family of people you might have known for fourteen years is nostalgic at best, and heartbreaking at worst.
In contrast to this, other grads are more than ready for change. One grad described her frustration with being with a very small group of people.
“I love WPGA and it’s made me a better person,” she explains. “But I’m ready to move to a place where people don’t know everything about me.” Getting a fresh start and maybe a chance to re-envision their identity is a common theme among many grads. Being with a similar peer group for years creates close relationships, but it also makes it difficult for people to experiment or change parts of themselves. For many, going to university or elsewhere is a chance to break free of preconceived notions about their identity, or a reputation they may have earned years ago. Moving away from home is a fantastic opportunity to try new things, meet new people, and not be judged for it.
“Of course I’m excited!” one grad exclaimed joyfully when asked about the prospect of graduation. “University has decent parking spots and I can get the [heck] away from calculus.”
This response to graduation seems casual, like perhaps leaving the close-knit community of WPGA isn’t so big of a deal. And maybe for a few lone students, it isn’t. But in many cases, it’s likely that students use the guise of casual indifference to conceal their secret despair over leaving everything behind.
Going away will always be emotional and nostalgic. But in the end, it pressures youth to boldly leave behind the security blanket of high school and venture on to reinvent themselves.