Every year at the end of the school year my high school (which I actually attended from 5th grade all the way through 12th) had an assembly. And every year at this assembly there was a slide show. And every year at this assembly during this slide show they would play the same song. To an outsider it might sound monotonous and boring, but to a Davidsonite it was a moment to aspire to- the moment when your face was on that slideshow. When YOU were among the elite, the prestigious, the powerful and all-mighty SENIOR CLASS. You'd watch the faces of your friends fade in and out on the projector screen, laugh out loud at the popular kid's nerdy softball photo from 2nd grade, smile at the sweet smiling faces of your classmates when they were cute and pudgy babies. But it was when your face appeared on the screen that you knew you had made it. You had made it through (in my case and that of a few of my classmates and friends) 8 years at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School. You were, quite literally, too cool for school. You were moving up and out and on. You were sitting there in the front of the auditorium (in the senior section, of course) and your face was flashing bright and toothy and innocent, larger than life... and then it was gone. And suddenly, with the fading of your own face, you knew what it really meant to be on that slideshow. It meant a passage of time, the end of an era, handing over a torch. It meant watching your friends slip past you, up and out and on into the world. It meant leaving the comfort of the top, front, and center and starting over again somewhere else... on the bottom, in the periphery. It meant leaving the comfort of familiarity for the startling newness of the rest of your life. By the end of the slideshow, almost the entire senior class was usually in tears. As an underclassman I always assumed it was because they were so happy, feeling so close to one another and overwhelmed by emotion. And to an extent that was true. But I didn't really understand until I was there in that moment is the fear that is inherent in the unknown. And while what waits for you may be even better than what you're leaving behind, it doesn't lessen the sadness of having to leave in the first place.
"Long ago, far away, life was sweet... close your eyes."