Rückkehrunruhe—(return unrest) n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.
We spent four years learning. Four years memorizing. Four years preparing for the future, for college. We spent four years planning and replanning and editing our paths. We spent four years getting to know each other and four years learning how our school worked and four years being shaped by each other and our environment. We spent four years together mourning good sleeping habits and begging for at least semi-tolerable grades. We spent four years learning scientific names and doing studies on beaches and taking water tests. Four years. And now? Now we go our separate ways, remembering what we can and cherishing those memories, but never fully remembering what we experienced.
I went to a very different high school. It was a vocational school, one for the smartest kids in the county. We all had to test in, leaving behind our old friends and school, starting new. A fresh start with new people and a harsher course load was what we expected. What we got was so much more. I have tried a million times to write some sort of tribute to my school, but it is impossible to describe in so few words. The shortest I could probably describe it would be hands-on hell. And some days, just hell. But other days, other days it was amazing. One day I would be sobbing and screaming in a vain attempt to memorize Latin names I would never need again, and the next I was sitting on the beach throwing oranges into the ocean and laughing at how ridiculous that was with some of the best friends I have ever known.
Despite this rollercoaster mix of hell and pure bliss, high school has been my immersive trip. I remember starting with marine biology and ending with environmental science and having chemistry and aquatic ecology and physics and oceanography somewhere in the middle, but those are not even all of the science classes I had. My astrophysics is blending with my calculus and my British literature is blending with my computer science. As strange as it sounds, the past four years have been put in a blender and become one. Of course, there are chunks, little things I still remember, like learning that the scientific name of the northern pufferfish is sphoeroides maculatus and how the moon was formed by a mars sized object colliding with the earth, but I cannot remember whether I took statistics or trigonometry first or how many people were in my class before they all started dropping out.
I have never really been able to accurately describe my school. When people ask I have always just said, “It’s a fish school, a school for intelligent people with a focus in the marine environment,” but it was so much beyond that. Every class was more intense than the last, whether it be a science or a math or even an English or gym class. It was also a group effort. My graduating class was seventy kids and I had some sort of relationship with every single one of them. I can tell you where every kid is from and something about them that I learned through some experience with them. They were more than friends, they were like a family. Sometimes I hated them, sometimes I loved them, and all the time they drove me crazy, but that was okay because we were crazy together. There were many occasions where I would be up at three am studying or writing a million papers or just trying to finish daily homework and would get text that said something like, “at what point do we say screw it and not bother sleeping at all,” or, “Yo, what’s the answer to 73, I keep getting this weird number,” or, “WhY thE ACtuAl FuKC Are TherE So MaNy DaMn TREES,” and looking back, those are messages I will cherish for eternity. I will not cherish them because they were funny or strange or because they happened at such ungodly hours. I will cherish them because they came from friends, friends that knew that—whether I had the answer to the world’s hardest math problems or not—I would be there for them at said ungodly hours. They knew that I was awake with them, memorizing scientific names of a hundred fish or eighty seven trees or trying to figure out why the hell Macbeth was so damn nuts or how to solve such awful integrals. They knew that, even when I could not answer their texts, that I was right there with them, wishing I was doing anything but exactly what I was doing, wishing I had not even bothered attempting this school, wishing I was smarter than I am.
But that is just it, isn’t it? We are not smarter than we are and we did attempt this incredibly challenging school and we did make it through everything we had to. We all graduated, we all learned, we all succeeded. We succeeded where others failed, and where most others did not even bother to try. We did it together, and we did it damn well.
I wish I could just hold the shutter open indefinitely on this immersive vacation, watching the past four years as one scene becomes superimposed on the next, so all my days run together and I never have to call cut, but I know I cannot, I must move on, as must everyone else that graduated with me today.
Everyone at high school graduations always says goodbye, I hope I see you again, best of luck in the future. I said my goodbyes, but I have no doubt I will see my classmates in the future. I will see them on television when they cure cancer or become the president, I will see them in magazines when they join the thirty under thirty, I will see them on campus tours when they become professors of big universities, I will see them in press conferences when they announce their latest discoveries, I will see them in line at patent offices, and I will see them everywhere, in the people around me, in their hearts and thoughts, as they change the world.
Dedicated to the MATES class of 2015, people who have helped me grow, learn, and become who I am today. Without each and every one of you, I would have never made it this far, and for that I am eternally grateful.