Baumgardner“This could be my last musical.”

That thought was running through the mind of more than one of the senior cast members as they took their bows after the closing night performance of “Into the Woods” at West Linn High School. Those final moments ran like sand through everyone’s fingers. But for those performers moving on to college next year, closing night was all the more bittersweet.

The prospect of a last musical is like a last championship game or a last cheer competition. It’s a sobering thought, one that illustrates what we risk losing as we bridge the gap from high school to college.

The fact of the matter is, college is a totally different territory. After we graduate, we may never again be involved in these activities quite the same way. No one can predict how one’s tryouts or auditions will go. Even if the break is self-imposed, maybe in order to pursue a different field of study, nobody is immune to the melancholy feeling of a last chance.

I still have another year. But talking to my senior friends involved with the musical, I caught a glimpse of what they stand to lose. West Linn’s theater program, just like so many other programs at the school, wraps you up the moment you dare to become a part of it, and it’s not easy to let go. It doesn’t matter if you’re acting, teching or both, the opportunity to find what you love and immerse yourself in it is amazing.

There’s a certain confidence that comes with that too. Being part of a cast, choir or team is the best way to be reminded not only that you’re important but also that you’re good at what you do.

And you might not realize your interest has gone from extracurricular activity to passion until you find yourself spending more time at school than you do at home. And your next thought is, “This is my home.”

A couple of my friends have been a part of so many productions at the high school that it has become woven into their lives like a thread in their favorite sweater. It’s hard to imagine tugging that thread out. Many seniors, whether they’re sure they won’t be able to continue their high school passions into adulthood or not so sure, have the idea that if they never get a chance like this again, they’ll have to pull that thread.

I have to disagree.

For better or for worse, our high school experiences are a part of us. We carry them forward, defining ourselves with the knowledge we’ve gained from this four-year era. We carry confidence. We’ve experienced success, and we know it will happen again, even if it’s with something new.

The seniors I know, though sad to be leaving West Linn, are also looking forward to the opportunities headed their way. They’re lining up college theater auditions and looking into playwriting classes. They’re ready to dive into a new world, bringing the threads of their high school passions with them.

Every story, every victory, as well as every defeat, won’t become just the lasting memories of high school. Those events will always be a part of our new story, wherever life might take us. To me, that’s a pretty reassuring thought.

Claire Baumgardner is a junior at West Linn High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Tidings this school year.

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