Senior Portrait… A Guest Post By Casey Baun

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Graduation is here. It’s upon us. It’s TOMORROW.

<insert every cliche known to man re: childhood and the passage of time>

Casey was the recipient of the Orchard Park High School Striving for Excellence English Department Award. This guest post is her Swan Song. Her final farewell to such a bittersweet journey. It is everything I love in a good read: Thoughtful, honest, authentic, insightful, funny, smart and brave. It makes me think and it makes me feel. And it is everything I love about her, as well.

Congratulations, Casey Lauren. And Congratulations to the Class of 2015.

The senior class is like a complicated family tree; bursting with fruitful goodness in some areas, and knotting and splintering with resentful judgment in others. We all may not necessarily enjoy everybody’s company—kind of like the uncle who tells cringe-worthy jokes or the great aunt who knits tacky sweaters as Christmas presents. But this will not change the fact that we are still a family. We have watched one another undergo the transitions from naive kindergarteners to high school seniors weathered by life. Our troubles have gone from dropped ice cream cones to dropped friends, whether it was for our own good, or simply a painful leg of the social triangle, as some friendships have their rough cycles, whilst others simply fade out. But here we are in the waning days of high school with blooming offerings to establish our own lifestyles and new circles of close companions. We are plucking the petals of each day one by one, and this may be the last time we see one another before we spread our wings for individual flights, each of us destined for both joys and tribulations. We don’t know the exact time we may meet next, be it a surprise encounter in a coffee shop, or at our ten-year high school reunion.

So this jarring truth is your cue to bite every minute like a bullet and savor everything that you have capacity for. Because chances are, you will find yourself missing even the classes that irritated you most, or wondering where your former peers are, even if you have not said more than five syllables to each other. Keep in contact with those who make you feel sincerely special and those who make you laugh the most, because they are the ones who will remind you how loved and supported you really are, and who will see you through the more abrasive patches of life.

School has taught me a textbook’s worth of more than the Pythagorean Theorem or rules of grammar. It has taught me that the trivial things people obsess over during high school life, such as who broke up with whom, will not amount to any value worth words in a couple of years. It has taught me that there is so much more right than wrong if I just keep a watchful eye out for it. It has taught me that with an open spirit willing to forgive, I can imagine the pain an oppressor might be feeling, and find a little extra grace for them. It has taught me that people can be cruel, but that mercy, a high head and easy laughter are the best comebacks.

As strange as this may sound, I would like to thank my bullies who had a callous hand in refining and maturing me. It was like exercise for the spirit—I felt the burn at the time, but it toned my inner strength and gave me a flexible, resilient skin that I do not want to shed. We may not be friends and may never be, but what matters is that I feel cathartic closure in forgiving you and saying so. Because unfortunately, flaws of humanity include people hurting others out of their own raging fear and inner stings. School can be a terrifying time, and I can certainly empathize with your urges to make your sophomore selves appear untouchable, even though it was used through gains not needed. As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Causing pain for people will not earn you benefits worth the price of the damage done, but if you have come across this principle already and embraced it, I am proud for you and I truly wish you well.

I would also like to thank my teachers who did not limit teaching strictly to the assigned lesson of the day, but also found time to teach us about life, about both its beauties and its cuts. While I may not use the formula for the area of a triangle anytime soon, I will surely remember and cherish the meaningful class discussions that we engaged in when other people were afraid to speak up for something worth fighting for. And thankfully I had too much pride most of the time to carry a can of taco sauce around the hall, for I might have missed out on something genuine and priceless. I would also like to express my deep appreciation for the teachers who took the trouble to see things from our level rather than looking down on us. The teachers who were not afraid to let us see them for their true and beautifully flawed selves rather than putting up a facade of false perfection. I would not be walking across the stage, clad in a cap and gown, without your support and encouragement. Your years’ worth of teaching and effort deserve more than a five minute speech dedicated to my gratitude, and I will be thinking of you during my new college classes.

And as OneRepublic wrote in a recent song, “I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give, and with every broken bone, I swear I lived.” Farewell, my friends. And I hope to see you at the family reunion.

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