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Well, here we are

Amy ChenTomorrow, we graduate. And by “we,” I mean the Lake Oswego High School Class of 2014.

I wanted to write a warm, fuzzy column about the occasion, but I’m afraid it would be too close to my graduation speech. If you need a case of the warm fuzzies and won’t be at graduation to get your fix, let me know and I’ll send you a copy of the speech. But I digress.

To be honest, I don’t know how to feel about graduation.

By the time you read this and before I step foot onstage Friday, I will technically be done with high school. My locker will be clean, my finals over, my positions in various activities passed down to future generations of students. I won’t have any reading assignments or summer homework — for a grade, at least — and although I’ve claimed to be “soooo done” with high school a dozen times before, I will really, truly, be done. This still hasn’t sunk in yet and probably won’t sink in until I arrive at college orientation this fall.

I’m also not a fan of big parties or celebrations or other ceremonies. These gatherings feel limited and awkward — they’re what I imagine speed dating must be like.

Like most people, I like familiarity. I don’t like meeting new people, because I’d rather just skip to the part where we’re — hopefully — comfortable with each other, and converse as such. I prefer running into a friend and asking how their day was. I prefer small “get-togethers” over a meal or coffee. I prefer conversation for the sake of conversation, without some overshadowing occasion forcing us to say this-or-that. In other words, I like my interactions to feel organic.

This might just be me and my inherent awkwardness, but with people I know well, large celebrations feel too restricted. While in other situations we might have other things on our minds to talk about, at events we — for the most part — talk about the purpose of the event. At graduation, for example, tghe conversation might go something like this:

“Congratulations!”

“Thank you!”

“How does it feel to be a graduate?” and/or “Are you excited for next year?” and/or etcetera.

I’m not blaming anyone for this. For the most part, we won’t have time to have more meaningful interactions. Yes, we might cry — in the same way that we smile when we say hello — but we still follow the same general format. After all, there are other people we need to congratulate and, in this way, say our goodbyes to.

The funny thing is, we say our goodbyes the same way we say our hellos.

On the first day of school, we were welcomed, we listened to our teachers introduce themselves via PowerPoint, and — if we met someone new — we asked them what they like to do. If we came across people we already knew, we asked them what they did over the summer or what classes they were taking. In the case of college visits, we resorted to the repetitive asking and listing of names, hometowns and majors.

These first and last conversations seem to be more informational than meaningful. They’re efficient. They serve as a transition into other situations. We tell each other the basics of who we are when we enter, and explain where we’re going when we leave.

Perhaps I’m being reductive. There are, of course, emotions that come with graduation. Even if I have the same conversations again and again, I’m still going to enjoy graduation — even as I hold back my heartache as we say goodbye. But graduation only has significance because it makes us transition from the moments that have come before it. We’ll make eye contact with people we’ve shared these moments with, and think:

Well, here we are.

I guess it’s time to say goodbye.

Amy Chen is a graduating senior at Lake Oswego High School, and she plans to attend Stanford University this fall. She writes a monthly column for the Review. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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