In the coming days, tens of thousands of our students will be finishing High School. There will be graduation ceremonies, tearful goodbyes, celebratory parties and all the usual shenanigans that go with finishing 12 years of schooling life. Promises will be made between high school comrades: ‘we’ll always be friends’, ‘we’ll never lose touch’ will be heard nationwide.
This rite of passage is significant, not just for the students but for the families behind them. The mothers, fathers, grandparents, caregivers, which, like the student have given so much of themselves to a community which for so long they were apart. It’s the end of an era for many. A sad time, yet a profound rite of passage. Something to be celebrated enjoyed and most of all remembered.
I’ve long since finished high school, but when I think back, it seems like only a moment ago. Somehow I’ve blinked and 24 years have gone by. As I look at my old school friends today, often what I see is the girl they used to be, not the woman they have become. We often still refer to each other by our maiden names and nicknames, forgetting for a minute or two that we are indeed grown women, dare I say it, heading towards middle age, many with senior roles and significant responsibilities
One of my best friends husbands said to me one day: ‘I always know when my wife is talking to her school friends on the phone. It’s like she reverts back to a language she would have spoken when she was 15’. And he’s right. There’s a certain comfort, a certain camaraderie between school friends, which you never lose. It’s always there. No matter what your age or stage in life.
So this week, we wish our students all the best. We tell them to be brave, be kind, be courageous and work hard. Yet we should tell them other things too. We should tell them that their story has just begun. They have a lifetime of choices ahead of them. Some will be right and some will be wrong and in some instances, they may find themselves in circumstances which they never chose or which they never thought they would be in. Our stories are never fixed. The path that they think they may be on may change in a heartbeat. What becomes important when they are faced with the unexpected and perhaps the traumatic is: their attitude, their ability to cope; their resilience. And as for the students that they stand shoulder to shoulder with, those friendships that they have made at this crucial time in their lives will be the foundations on which they can always rely. So tell them to take a good look around, for the people beside them, may just be right there in the years to come.