So I graduated high school. That still feels so weird to say, or, I guess, type. As of today, it’s been 37 days since I walked across the big stage in Singapore, in front of all my friends, teachers and family, to receive my High School diploma. It’s honestly surreal. I’ve tried to write this so many times over the last 36 days, but for some reason I’ve been unable to. It’s evoked too many emotions that I couldn’t handle so soon. There were days when I felt too disconnected from my high school life to write this. But usually, it was because I couldn’t accept the fact that I had graduated. Now, I know that may sound weird, but let me try to put some things in perspective.
I was born in Singapore and have lived here my whole life. I went to one school for Kindergarten, but since first grade I have gone to the same school, Singapore American School (SAS). I still remember every single teacher I’ve ever had, every tryout session for the school’s swim team, and every milestone I accomplished at school. When I was in fourth grade, my sister started the same school as me. Suddenly, SAS became my family’s life. We spent countless weekends at school for swim practices and swim meets, I spent so many after schools going to watch dance shows and drama performances that my friends were in, and I spent 13 hours five days a week at this place that very quickly became my second home. School was the place I met all of my friends, all of my coaches, and all of the teachers who inspired me. It became my life. I loved working at attending sports games of all kinds and wearing my SAS gear. I was proud to be an eagle. And this wasn’t just for the four years of high school, this was the 12 years I spent as an eagle. So when it came time for me to graduate, I quickly realized that I wasn’t just graduating from high school, but I was graduating SAS and this chapter of my life. After all, this moment in my life is the peak of change. When I leave for college, I will no longer be living in a house with my family, I will no longer walk down the streets to see many familiar faces, I will no longer walk into school each morning greeted by the friends and teachers I had known and trusted for years, and I will no longer have this place to call my second home. It’s not one individual person or a singular place, but it’s my life. And honestly, speaking right now in this moment, I don’t think I realize that until right now.
The night of graduation was chaotic, emotional, and well…wonderful. It was chaotic simply because of the sheer number of people. My graduating class had 287 students, most of whom had brought an average of 6 family members and friends to graduation. Add that to the hundreds of faculty members and staff, and you have a humongous group of people. The commencement ceremony lasted around two and a half hours, and that was followed by an hour of picture taking with all of the people squished into one small reception area. That was chaotic. It was also extremely emotional. From the time I put on my dress at home to the time I hugged my mom, dad and sister after the ceremony, all sorts of emotions were constantly rushing over me. Saying goodbye to teachers and some friends who had changed my life was so sad. Standing there with all of my classmates around me, for the last time, as we through our caps in the air was bittersweet. And walking out of the theater, leaving high school behind me was devastating. But while graduation night was all those things, it was also wonderful. I knew going in to the night how hard it was going to be for me to close that chapter, so I decided the day before that instead of being sad, I was going to be grateful. Instead of being upset that all the things I loved about high school were going to be over, I decided to be grateful that I had something so special that I didn’t want it to end. Instead of crying after saying goodbye to my favorite teachers, I decided to be grateful that I had adults in my life that inspired me and motivate me every single day. And instead of thinking of the final goodbye I would have to say to my friends, I decided to be grateful that SAS gave me a place to meet all these people who quickly became my second family. Now, I can tell you that there were moments that I was sad, there were moments I was angry, and there were moments where I cried uncontrollably, but choosing to be grateful made everything worth it.
I was once asked the question, ‘What is your biggest regret in life?’. Well, some people may think that an 18 year old isn’t old enough to answer that question whole-heartedly, but I don’t think that’s the case for me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of my answer to that question, and I think I have one; one that’s simple, but also really complicated. My answer: I have none. Just like I chose to be grateful for everything high school had to offer me, I also decided that I wasn’t going to regret anything I did, but be grateful that my mistakes helped me learn and grow as a person. When I look back at all the highs and lows of high school, I don’t regret a single thing. Even if the lows were preventable, I don’t regret it. And I don’t regret I because out of every low came extreme growth for me.
I know this post may seem a little convoluted and disorganized, but in a way, that’s how my high school experience was. It wasn’t simple, it wasn’t easy and it didn’t always make sense. But looking back on it now, it has been life changing. I learned from mistakes, I formed relationships to last a lifetime, and I was inspired. I’ve been trying to find closure, a way to make sense of this crazy journey, and writing this now, I think I’ve found it. So to those of you who still have part or all of this entire journey to look forward to, take advantage of it. Don’t wish for it to be over, because once it is you will be wishing for it to still be there. Don’t beat yourself down about the little things, but learn from your mistakes. Allow yourself to fall and be inspired. That’s what I did, and like I said, I have no regrets. I’m sitting here now with tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face. High school, thank you for everything, I’ll miss you.