On June 3, 2006 I graduated from San Francisco University High School!
Saturday was The Big Day: commencement. We arrived at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco at 10 AM. As I slipped into my cap and gown it started to dawn on me that my four crazy, generally wonderful years with friends was coming to a close. The services were fine (the Head of School’s speech was all about happiness — as one friend told me, "He’s been reading your blog too much"). I received my diploma and thought warm thoughts of all my friends as their names were read off, too.
In the reception afterwards I greeted close friends and supporters. I tried to thank as many teaches as I could but, on days like these, most thank-yous probably sound too cookie-cutter. My family and extended family had a nice dinner at Fleur de Lys, a fancy restaurant in San Francisco. Although I’m not a big "let’s-eat-fine-food-and-wine" kind of guy (I prefer sweatpants/t-shirt and a cafe), it was fine. Then I rushed home, changed clothes, and headed over to waiting buses for Grad Night.
Grad Night is a traditional parents-sponsored night for the seniors, billed as the last time we are all in one place together (and probably the last time I will ever see some of these people). All 120 of us loaded buses for a secret location (they don’t tell us beforehand). On my bus the music was all San Francisco themed. San Francisco Love has been a constant point of discussion the past couple weeks — people who are leaving the Bay Area for college (most everyone) have started to appreciate the amazing beauty and personality of this region.
We arrived at the Bay Club, a luxurious health club / gym in downtown SF. The school rented out the whole facility for the night and loaded it with tons of food, activities, music. Think street fair and night club in one. I gorged myself on sushi and guacamole and other goodies all night long. One of the highlights of the night was the American Idol competition. By 2:30 AM people started to fade — like me, who hasn’t stayed up all night….ever. People started to sign yearbooks feverishly. Even though most of my mental faculties had shut down, I still managed to write meaningful messages in most of my friends’ yearbooks. It is a rare opportunity to express sincere gratitude for all my peers have taught me. They are an amazing group of people and since it’s easier for me to write rather than deliver heartfelt emotions in-person, I took yearbook signings seriously.
At 4 AM we had a light breakfast followed by the closing activity of the night. The entire class sat in a big circle in the humongous yoga room at Bay Club. The lights were all off save for some candles flickering and a few red lights shining. I had heard about this activity from previous graduating classes. It had the reputation of being the "cry session," where people express their thanks to everyone else. We passed a candle around the circle. When it came to me, I said, "If you plan to use your considerable talents and gifts to affect change in your community, organization, or in the world, please reach out to me so I can learn from you, help you, and we can do it together. Stay connected. Stay connected." Other people had more personal expressions of gratitude, pieces of advice (not all of which I agreed with), and yes, some tears. One friend even used the opportunity to riff of my blog post on luck!
At 5:45 AM we boarded the buses, drove through SF as the light was catching the top of the sky scrappers and hills, and by 6:20 AM I was back in my bed, utterly exhausted. My head was still racing with emotions and thoughts about my four years of high school. Like most people, on the one hand I am sad to leave a group of peers whom I respect so much. On the other hand, I have always had such an active life outside my high school that it’s not as hard to for me to leave and, moreover, I have some kick-ass years ahead of me! (Also, I also find many aspects of high school culture sickening.)
In all of our lives there are turning points. Today is a new chapter. It’s a brand new day. Thanks to everyone who helped me get to this point.
(Me with friends David, Danielle, Director of College Counseling and brilliant thinker Jon Reider, and Head of School Mike Diamonti)
9 comments on “High School Graduation 2006”
Our valedictory here in Vancouver is on Wednesday, very exciting!
I plan to take a gap year myself, so maybe we’ll get a chance to chat. 🙂
Congratulations, Ben! I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for the graduation. I’m sure the change of venue this year was a hit.
I’m glad I can at least see your blog here in China seeing as I can’t even access mine to post due to the Chinese government…yikes!
All the best,
Congratulations! Sounds like a wonderful event. Don’t worry Ben, the best is yet to come!
Don’t believe that offal about high school being the best years of your life. The best is yet to come.
Bizzare thought but my HS graduation was a staggering 26 years ago. Both the best AND worst is yet to come, but mostly the best. Congrats – John.
Damn … you … are … tall!
Congratulations! Damn, how tall are you?! Or is everyone in those photos just very, very short 😉