Advice: If you ever want to feel old, visit a high school. I guarantee you will feel old within seconds.
Evidence: When I was 14, touring Juneau-Douglas High School for the first time, I thought of how old I was. Mind you, I was 14, which is not very old. Yet, as my eyes darted from person to passing person, I couldn’t help but absorb the maturity each person exhibited. Heading back to middle school the next day felt like a crime after feeling so liberated. I didn’t know it then, but I had felt old.
Here’s some more evidence from last week, during my high school senior class assembly. Each year, our school celebrates the graduating class of the year with a slideshow and a few recognition awards from each academic department. Nostalgia made me feel old, then. How else could I have felt after having been to this same assembly for three years as a spectator — only to become the one being watched?
It’s odd to have seen my peers’ faces displayed above me, matched with Miley Cyrus’ singing voice and painfully awkward slideshow transitions. It was even odder to realize how every year, I would look up to the slideshow astounded by the thought of being up there someday. Then, out of nowhere, the moment came and shocked disbelief out of me.
Flashback to Prom this last week. Every time the DJ shouted “Congrats Class of 2017!” above the music’s thrum, I scanned the crowd of faces I won’t see again — some of them in a long time, some of them never again. I thought of the underclassmen, wearing their best suits and short-length dresses, and how they couldn’t possibly feel the magnitude of the DJ’s words. “Congrats Class of 2017!” is code, a phrase we all understand but only a select few can comprehend. Being in the know, too, makes me feel old.
In a week, I will be graduating. My diploma is my exit buddy. Once I walk out of my school’s doors, I will forever be an outsider.
Feeling old isn’t just about the number of wrinkles on my skin. It’s also about change, about leaving and about entering. The territory I’m in is unfamiliar, yet the territory my younger friends are in are too familiar. I know things I haven’t before, but for any known, there is also an unknown.
High school is a place of these knowns and unknowns, and the excitement I feel walking toward the doorway is unmatched — not including the fear I feel as I get closer to it.
Walk into a high school and you’ll be filled with nostalgia. The memories of standing on the precipice I walk on now will tilt you forward, to the future, and backward, to the past. Remember how we lived and grew in this space? Or how one day we felt being here had so many opportunities, and the next we couldn’t wait to get out?
If you want to feel old, visit a high school.