The time has come. High school is finished. OVER. DONE. So strange to have focused this blog on the past two years of high school.. And now what? Prom is over. Final exams forgotten. Graduation finished. Speeches made, tassles switched, caps thrown, tears, pictures, flowers, balloons, and hugs. I observed myself walking through it all in a daze, distracted by my own overwhelm with this phase of life ending. Yesterday my daughter left for a 12-day trip to Thailand with her grandparents. And here I sit tonight, reflecting on it all.
The thing I feel most intensely is my inner resistance to accepting change. Because this is not a small change. It’s a Doozie. And even though as a therapist I tell people that change is a positive, inevitable part of life, I still don’t like it. As a mother this change is also a loss of purpose, a loss of identity. Everything in my life feels different, strange, like an ending with no new beginning in sight. Too much is unknown and unfamiliar. Even my job and living situation feel tenuous right now. If I’m really honest I also realize that part of me doesn’t want to be left behind. I would like to move someplace completely different and start my life over, like she is doing. And yet I am still a mother, trying to figure out how to afford a two-bedroom apartment so my daughter has a place to come home to, and I’ve made a four year commitment to helping her financially through school.
Over the past few weeks I have found myself reflecting back to my own senior year of high school. So very different from my daughter’s. I actually graduated a semester early and got the hell out of Dodge. (or San Francisco in this case). I was best friends with a girl who graduated the year before me. She was traveling in Europe and when I found out I had enough credits to graduate early I decided to travel to Europe with the hope of spending time there with my friend. (Unfortunately she ended up going to Israel and I never saw her during the 6 months I was there). Things in high school had turned ugly. A girlfriend of mine, also a senior, was dating a boy in our class who was physically abusive to her. I tried to help her get out of the relationship but soon everyone turned on me. I was scapegoated, labeled “The Feminist”, and it was suggested that I hated guys and was a lesbian. I was suddenly no longer invited to parties or included in our social group. I was an outcast. So leaving felt like the right thing to do and I got an open ended plane ticket and Eurail Pass and left the Bay Area for England, Scotland, France, Sweden, Spain, and Italy. I was seventeen and had no idea what I was doing. (A long story for another blog perhaps..)
Needless to say I never went to my prom, senior picnic, grad night, or graduation. I had no sense of pride or accomplishment in finishing high school, and was disconnected from most of the kids I had been friends with. I only felt bitter in looking back, and relieved when I was free. I was reminded of this the other night as my daughter read through the things people wrote in her year book. It was filled with funny and heart-felt goodbyes, so much written that there was not enough space for everyone who wanted to write. She felt loved, and satisfied at ending high school on a good note. She too was relieved, not sad or nostalgic, but definitely proud of herself and ready to take the next step in her life.
Intellectually I know this will all be fine. I will settle in to the new me, mom of a college student, but also finding new paths and self-definitions. I might have to get a roommate, a new job, a new community. I might have to focus on myself a lot more than I have for eighteen years. And despite my fears and resistance, I will change.