I have been to quite a few high school graduations over the years. And it seems like I’ve gotten choked up or cried at every single one of them except my own.
At mine, others were sobbing and making frantic promises to stay in touch. I just wanted the hell out. So why am I welling up at other people’s, especially when I don’t know a single capped-and-gowned person? The best I can figure is I either want to secretly pull some of them aside and whisper, “None of this shit matters, you know. No one cares what you did in high school, and that’s a good thing. Screw the bastards who made you feel like shit these last four years.” Seriously, if anyone tells a high school student that this is the “peak of their life” or the “best years of their life,” kick them. As a wise person once told me that you don’t want high school to be the peak of your life, because then you have nothing whatsoever to look forward to.
Or maybe it’s that while school isn’t a big deal, the transition out of it into the realm of adulthood is. If you’re lucky, you go to college. It can be fun, but all those damn student loans can really get to you. Then you get your college degree, and you realize you have to be an adult now. You can’t go to your two classes and then go back to your apartment and sleep. You have to go to work unless you’re unwell. No turning off the alarm, rolling back over and deciding to just skip class today. I mean, I’m sure you can do that but I’d feel a lot more guilty about that then I ever did about skipping class.
There’s a lot more to it than that, and honestly, while being an adult is better than high school, there are still many things about it that suck. I think and have heard the early 20s are a lot more of a struggle than the late 20s. It’s all, “What am I? What is my place in this world? Why can’t I get to sleep on time?”
Having said all that, I’d like to make amends to myself for something. I didn’t get a high school class song. None of us did, really. I don’t know if we were supposed to vote, but we didn’t. Instead, they just played a Christian song without asking anyone. I kid you not. So I’m going to make a list of good high school class songs, songs that perhaps have more meaning a few years later than they would now. So perhaps I’m playing with time a bit, but here we go. And I swear, any class that uses “Photograph” by Nickelback should have all their diplomas immediately revoked.
It’s about loving someone but letting them go. I think it’s about letting yourself go to a new place, a scary place, a confusing place, but a place you need to go to all the same. “So sing all your questions to sleep/the answers are out there in the drowning deep.” Also, this song is so luminous, so incandescent, it takes my breath away. And if you have a person waiting for you, who will be your harbor no matter where you go or where they go, well then, you’re really damn lucky.
Fumbling Toward Ecstasy-Sarah McLachlan
This album of the same name is one of the first CDs I listened to over and over and over again. The way she sings, “I won’t fear love” over and over, you sense she’s convincing herself just as much as anyone. On a material note: I’m not sure what to think of the boa in this video.
The Middle-Jimmy Eat World
I remember pulling out of the parking lot after either graduation or some pre-grad ceremony and hearing this song on the radio. That might mean it’s a little too conventional, but I really don’t care that much. The lyrics shouldn’t work like they do; they’re almost too sincere. But they do, at least for me. Even today. “It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.” I had a friend or a friend of a friend who allegedly thought one of the first lines was “Hey, don’t rot yourself away.” Let it be said, though, that as far as the video goes, I’m still not sure what running around in your underwear has to do with conformity. The metaphor doesn’t quite work there. I almost would have preferred that they were wearing Hanes and everyone else had Fruit of the Loom. Or something.
Speed of Sound-Coldplay
Honestly, there are times when I think this band is overhyped. And while X&Y ages well, A Rush of Blood to the Head remains my favorite album from Chris Martin and company. But this song gives me chills. “How long before I get in?/Before it starts, before I begin?” This songs finds the the beauty in being overwhelmed. Or perhaps it’s about being overwhelmed by all the beauty. Maybe it’s both.
So, in closing, I think high school songs shouldn’t be about all the people you’ll miss and all the “good times” you had. Make it about the future-the weird, infuriating, wonderful future. That’s the important part.