And then I graduated

Nycea Patterson

Freshman year orientation. This school is huge. I’ll probably get lost. I don’t even know anyone here. Why can’t I just be homeschooled?

First day. This isn’t so bad. That girl has blue hair. I have P.E. first block. Great. Algebra second block. Fantastic. I hate these red shorts. I think this Journalism class is going to kill me.

I’ve failed Journalism. I’ve failed Algebra. H-E-L-P. I’ve got a tutor; she’s a senior. B in Journalism by the end of the year. Algebra via e-school. I’m so glad it’s summer.

Sophomore year. I’m invisible. I think everyone was. I like Desktop Publishing. Math’s improved; it’s geometry. Shapes. I was going to try out for the step team, but I was unmotivated. I find the E.T.H.I.C.S society. It occupies my Mondays. I become Treasurer—ironic. I hate math. I can’t wait for next year. I am entirely too bored with this. I meet my best friend. Positive.

Junior year. You have got to be kidding me. I take Chemistry. I hate Chemistry. I struggle in Chemistry. I meet my other best friend. I take the ACT. I party on Halloween. I’ve found my identity. I dress better. I feel older. I see fewer familiar faces. I take the ACT again. I make a project about fireworks. Now I hate fireworks, too. I get in my first fight with my best friend. I wasn’t loyal. I’ve learned my lesson. We make up. I go to football games—basketball games—homecomings. I gain acquaintances; I gain red hair. I have a new stare. I buy a prom dress; it’s green. I like green. I go to prom. I have fun. It’s different.

I take the ACT a third time. A twenty-five. I vow to never take the ACT again.

And then it’s summer. I have fun with my friends. I go to Downs after Dark. I think life is perfect. I have jaw surgery, suck juice through a straw. My face is swollen. Numb lip. I’m in recovery, getting better while someone else gets worse—Quanie passes away. My friends are distraught. I’m confused. I don’t think things are so perfect anymore. My friends go to college. I’m left to figure out who I’ll eat lunch with. I feel like a freshman again. But I wasn’t. I was…

Senior year. I’m at the top of the food chain. I take graduation pictures. My mom cries.  I’m an aide. I take Foods class. I become friends with people I used to be friends with. I fall in love with Broadcasting. I film football games, I film dances. I get an internship, and then I film for TV. I get a red folder. I get nervous. I write twelve essays for colleges. I apply. I sit in the counselor’s office, I apply for scholarships. I fall in love with Northern Kentucky University. I go on a visit. Feels like home. I decide that’s where I want to be. They give me a scholarship. I know I made the right choice. I go to my last prom. It’s a good time. I dance the night away. I feel okay again. I don’t remember the last two weeks of high school. They go by too fast. I will always remember this.

And then I graduated.