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What it's Like to Graduate High School at 34

Stacy Taubman

I have often felt like I never left high school.  For the past twelve years, my life has revolved around a bell system telling me when to start my day, when to eat lunch, and when to go home. Just like the students, every year I would look forward to the start of a new school year to see familiar faces and get to “hang out” with my friends on a regular basis. I may even give the students a run for their money on enjoying snows days and winter vacation more than they do.

It’s weird to be coming to a close in my high school career.  Taking a year off, and potentially more, to focus on Girls Dreaming Big has left me feeling like I am finally graduating high school. Just like them, I am super excited to take the next step in my life and focus full time on my company.  However, as the end gets closer and closer, so many different emotions and fears begin to surface.

  • Fear of the Unknown – love it or hate it, we know what to expect day in day out.  High school provides a predictable experience.  As we venture out to our next chapter we have to embrace the uncertainty and unknown of what the future holds.  Seniors are thinking, "What if I don’t like college? What will college be like?" My thoughts aren’t too different from them.
  • Fear of Failure – Anytime we start something new in our lives, it’s natural to have moments of doubt.  The gremlins in our head start to whisper, “Am I good enough? Will I make it? Will this make me happy?
  • Fear of Independence – High school students are always pushing the boundaries trying to gain more independence.  However, as graduation looms and college approaches, it's scary to think about the reality of having to stand on their own two feet.  I can definitely relate to this.  Being my own boss is exciting because I get to make my own schedule and do what I want, but at the end of the day my success lies solely on me.
  • Fear of Redefining Yourself – for so many years we have been defined by our experiences here at high school.  Our friend groups and how we view ourselves are greatly impacted by our day-to-day experiences.  Once we leave, we are going to have to figure out who we are without the confines of our high school persona.  This can be a scary experience.  We also struggle with the thoughts of how our friendships will change when we are scattered all over the place.  People who we would see daily, we will now have to make a conscious effort to stay in touch.

It’s funny how you can look forward to a moment for so long, but when it finally arrives you feel so thrown off by it.  I know many seniors are struggling with these emotions.  It's easy to get caught up in the fear and stress of transition.  Although I think it's important to honor these emotions, I think it's just as crucial to take time to focus on the joy and excitement involved in graduating.  You’ve made it! Good, bad or ugly, high school is over, and ready or not, you're moving on to the next chapter in your life.  You get to become anyone you want and pursue whatever makes you happy.  That’s a liberating experience and exactly how I felt when I started my company.  New beginnings provide countless opportunities if you go about them with the right attitude.  Acknowledge your fear, but try not to get bogged down by it.  So many great things lie ahead.

One last thing, try to make the best of your goodbyes.  If I'm being honest, I kind of suck at them.  How do you capture all you want to say in a moment or even several moments?  I have come to realize, the key is to force yourself to think about it ahead of time and plan how you want to leave things.  Nothing is more frustrating than looking back on things that you should have said or done.  Close this chapter in your life knowing you ended it in a way in which you can be proud.

In typical Taubman fashion, I will leave you with a quote:

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” 
― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

Now it's your turn.  I would love to hear how you feel or felt about graduating.  If you enjoyed what you read, feel free to pass this on to your friends :)