John Matthew Jensen, Scott Anthony Jones, Todd Andrew Green … I sat staring at the hundreds of black caps amongst me, listening to the names of our ridiculously large graduating class drown on. It was like any other graduation I’d ever been to; the only difference was it was mine. I thought about my trip to San Francisco that I was leaving for tomorrow morning with my three best friends. I pictured my bags I had already neatly packed in the back of my Volvo. I did a mental check off of each item; I hoped I’d had everything.
I glanced to my family in the stands. They took up a full row, my eyes moved down it in sequence-mom, dad, my three older sisters, their husbands and nieces and nephews galore. They had all followed the path my parents had laid out for them; college, marriage, kids- in that perfect order. My parents were so proud. To the right of my father sat two of the top executives in his firm. No doubt he was trying to impress them with his honor roll daughter. They were trying to do the same by attending his daughter’s boring graduation ceremony. On the left of my father sat my boyfriend Seth. Seth had done a lengthy internship with my father’s firm; he basically picked him out for me. Seth and I would marry after his last semester of law school next year.
Like any other person, I had entertained other paths of life, but those thoughts never lasted too long due to the fact that I knew I needed to live up to my elder sisters accomplishments and the definition of success in my family was to follow that perfect path. Anything but that path would cause me to be the disappointment of the family and an embarrassment to my father. No other path was ever really talked about or encouraged. There was no room for independence, adventure or chances to make any mistakes. It was all controlled and planned out from the moment we left the womb. I don’t know if my parents realized this was the environment they had put us in, after all, they only wanted what was best for us -right? I flashed a smile and looked back to the announcer.
Dave Don Johnson, Amy Lyn Smith… I reached to the commencement program lying on the floor in front of me. The big bold letters on the front read “Today you begin the first day of the rest of your life.” I stared at the statement for a moment. I looked back up to the crowd of people, the parents, the kids, the grandparents. I looked at my classmate’s swarming around me-all the same, all in black, all my age. This really was the first day of the rest of all our lives. It was brutally true. Up until this point, our lives had been consumed of basically getting up and going to school. It was a given, that was our required, society approved life to lead, and now that life was over. That planned sequence of events that we had been living since we were 5 years old was over.
I had never looked at it that way before, and for some reason, following that thought; my body had some sort of uncontrollable reaction. My mind involuntarily plummeted into a spell of panicked confusion. I’d never been so terrified in my entire life. A million thoughts instantly flooded into my brain. I couldn’t control my body, thoughts or feelings. I was frozen, and no matter how hard I tried, the thoughts were forceful, potent, and utterly impossible to suppress.
It was at that moment, with that precise though, and with that precise feeling, that my new life was beginning very quickly.
It was now our choice of what we were going to do with ourselves and the chances were extremely high that the majority of us would end up going to a few years of college, get married and have kids. I frantically scanned the room, how could they all just be ok with that? Predictable – what a horrific way to live.
My frozen body automatically rose like a marionette puppet. I had no control. I frantically stumbled past the seas of students, tripping on feet, knees, and then running… running… running… down the massive sets of stands straight to the door.
I didn’t look back.