A few weeks ago, I interviewed some Eureka Springs students involved in the high schoolís Rotary Interact Club. All three were seniors, and I knew each of them by name. I have worked with them over the past four years, covering school plays, choir performances and countless special projects.
My job is to talk to people, to get to know them. I got to know those students. At the end of the interview, I paused and smiled at them. Something had crossed my mind. Iím not the type of person to keep much to myself, so I let it out.
ďThis will probably be the last time I talk to you before graduation,Ē I said.
In that moment, I realized how bittersweet high school graduation can be. Frankly, I was caught up in all the things that seemed so important during my own graduation. I remember giving a speech and hoping I didnít fall (I didnít!) on the way across the stage, but I havenít retained much else from that time. It was a blur. I didnít take any mental snapshots. I put on the cap and gown, walked across the stage and sighed in relief when it was over. It didnít seem like the big deal everyone made it out to be.
Now I understand itís a huge deal. Iíve been in Carroll County long enough to work with a group of students from freshman year to graduation. Every year around this time, I feel this tiny pang in my heart. I know I wonít see certain students when I visit the school in just a few months, and it makes me sad. Letting go is rarely easy, or so Iím learning.
It surprises me how attached Iíve become to the youth in our area, because I never liked kids growing up. Iím not the person you ask to hold your baby in an emergency. I didnít even think Iíd have kids of my own until I met Gideon, who has added color to my black heart. Still, somehow, Iíve grown fond of the students in our community.
In the speech I gave at my high school graduation, I encouraged fellow graduates to attack life with zeal. I was optimistic. I believed the best was yet to come. Since then, Iíve lived and learned and screwed up enough to fill this entire page. For all that, I am grateful. It has made me the person I am today, for better or worse. Fortunately, Iíd say itís mostly better.
To all the graduates in our county, those Iíve interviewed and those I havenít Ö I hope you are looking forward to the next phase of life. Go for your wildest dream, even if it seems impossible. Tell people you love them the moment you feel it every time. Embrace your mistakes. When I was graduating, someone told me we learn a lot from our mistakes. I agree with that, but I think we learn even more from the way we respond to our mistakes.
Truly, the best I can hope for all of you is that you continue learning, not just during college but for the rest of your lives. Congratulations, graduates! I hope the rest of your days are spent loving, living and giving.
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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com