I’m writing this because, at a shopping mall food court, sitting opposite a family with children loud in the way only the infantile can be, a realization hit me. A simple thought, really, which is befitting, because the most awing and hard-hitting of realizations always are: simple, lean, immediate, and whose striking – often unexpectedly – feels like a ton of bricks to the face. I was with a friend at the time, and, seeing the look on my face, he promptly asked what was wrong, leading me to conclude that I’d worn the face of those astonished and smitten: mouth agape, a blank look in eyes staring indistinctly into space. The realization was this: I’m not going to school any more.
It’s been nineteen days since June 22nd, my last day of school. Before the realization at the food court, I’d had an indifferent attitude toward having graduated. The last day of school ended like any other, and the days after it ensued, and that was that. At their very height, my reactions toward graduation were lukewarm. This, wholly discrepant from the image of the very last day of school I’d created in my head: unimaginable happiness, exiting the exam hall in somersaults, warm hugs being shared, a mob of students dancing with impeccable choreography in near-perfect allignement and formation (a little too Bollywood-esque, I’ll concede, but if any day would be so prodigiously out of the ordinary, I thought it would be that!). It wasn’t, however, and I realized I’d been romanticizing the day too much.
I suppose a fair warning would have been appropriate (perhaps a little earlier in the post would have been a better spot for it, too): this post is an entirely self-absorbed one, and contrary to what the apocalyptic-sounding title might suggest, isn’t a short story or poem about the end of the world (though that would be nice). But no, instead, this post is like many that I’ve read on friends’ blogs recently: The End of School Post.
Typing this, I sit here and look back on twelve years, and marvel (by smiling stupidly) at this, for want of a better phrase, end of an era. It really was obvious and simple: I was not going to school any more, that’s true enough, but knowing something is one thing, and fully understanding it is another. At that moment, with the typical, loud chit-chat of eateries thick and almost solid in the air, I understood that much of what I took for granted, completely and utterly, will cease to be. I’ll never absentmindedly enter the school gates again. I won’t walk past the white walls of the school again, and wonder when they had truly been white, and not old-looking and off-white, their pristine coat of paint now molested by dirt, time, and generations of school-folk. I’ll never have to slither between mobs of the spirited and ever-shortening (or am I just getting bigger?) fifth-graders playing football with makeshift balls of water bottles or emptied and flattened cans of whatever soft drink, because failing to grant them space will result in being violently bumped into (they take their football very seriously). The list can and will grow tragically long if I continue. Though I didn’t realize it while it happened, it’s been a good few years of schooling.
But even more amazing, jaw-dropping and colossally incredible is looking back at the last three or so years of my life. They’ve been as great a time of change and self-discovery as I can imagine possible. I look back on those three years and see my likes and dislikes, ambitions and hopes, and the way I see life changing in more ways that I can count, and then some! And then some more! And then, when I thought I’d finally arrived at a definite character and set of views, I changed again. (I’m told this is supposed to happen.) Three years ago, for one, I’d been a social deserter, bound to perpetual self-imposed solitary confinement. I wasn’t so much an introvert as someone willing seclusion upon himself (and thus talked to no one, and made no friends past the most fleeting and casual of acquaintances). I found inner peace around, mostly, books and television, and never around friends (who I hadn’t had to begin with) or around people. I’d go as far as say that I resented sociality. If ever there was one who preferred and thrived on his own company, I was he. And exceptionally so.
Three years ago that changed and, to spare you the long story of how it happened, I’ll simply say that I chanced upon and subsequently befriended The Guitarist and his brother, The Bassist, who fished me out from inside my self-erected walls – I became a social person with friends, though before then I had thought my ascension and induction into Olympus more likely, and far more believable. It had been so severe that, after becoming the slightest bit social, many thought I was newly transferred, when in fact I’d been a student of the school for five years! After keeping my silence for so long, I became quite the talkative set of lips; it’s funny, in a way it’s as if I’d had so much talk bottled up, and then once it could, it flooded out, seeming like I swallowed a radio (phrase that is much repeated around me).
I’ve met some truly amazing people since, of whom words don’t do justice. I’m grateful to have met them, because knowing them has been an absolute joy. I think, if meeting friends were a game of cards, I couldn’t have possibly been dealt a better hand. I also discovered and nurtured some very literary inclinations – after being a reader for so long, I started writing. I think it’s become, in every declension of the word, an integral part of who I am.
Before the end of the year, I’d also done everything on my list of things I wanted to do before I left school. I attended a class (just one was enough to satisfy my curiosity) in one of the classes with the comfortable-looking blue desks and chairs that looked so unlike our brown ones. (They really were comfortable.) I was taught by the one teacher who I liked the most but who didn’t teach me – my nickname for her is Miss Lovi, a shortened version of her name, but in my head I called her Miss Lovely, for being so nice. (In my mind, she unequivocally falls nothing short of being my favourite teacher.) I monkey-hung upside-down by my legs from a high metal bar – I was too afraid to do that when I was younger, but now I’d conquered the metal pole! I befriended the librarian, something I set out to do at the beginning of the year.
Something else that I thought was interesting: throughout twelfth grade, the final year, I witnessed the liquefaction and merciless demolition and effacing out of existence of the distinct cliques among the graduating class of highschool-folk. Whereas a year earlier they banded together in staunch and vehemently exclusive groups, during their last year everyone seemed to want to befriend everyone else. All pretentiousness was dropped, and all friendliness embraced. It was as though the underlying dialogue was, “So, we’ve kept up this Highschool act for years now. Long enough, we think, let’s drop it now and make this year fun.”
I refused to attend my school-organized graduation ceremony, solely because it seemed to me a one-size-fits-all affair, one that I wouldn’t enjoy, so I resolved to make my opinion heard, and my need for rebellion sated, by not attending. I did, however, attend as part of the audience, and watched as the event unfolded, one painful drudgery replacing the other: a badly performed offering of dance, an equally poorly poetry recital, life-starved speeches, and a disappointingly hurried name-calling-of-the-students-to-walk-up-and-receive-their-certificates. The after-party that followed, though, was the most fun I’d had in months. I will, however, deny being the person in the pictures in my friends’ possession; while that singing and bellydancing individual does look like me, and wore a tuxedo that looked near-identical to mine, that person … errrr … that person isn’t me.
Two years ago, it’s worth mentioning, I was close to switching schools – it was all but done, I’d applied, been accepted, and was as close to doing it as windshield wipers are to windshields. But it never came to be, and I couldn’t be more glad that it didn’t. I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like if I had.
I’ve learned a lot, about myself and life and everything, so much that I can scarcely think of it all without having my lower jaw unscrew from its joint from the awe of it. One of these things I’ve come to learn – and this after the lesson being repeated many times – is that things don’t strictly happen the way you imagine them. In fact they rarely ever do. The unexpected is always what happens, because the expected is infected to falsehood with our hopes. But that doesn’t mean that when it happens, the unexpected is less impactful, less wonderful, less beautiful, less worth reminiscing over, than what you imagined would take place. I can attest to that, and I’m very grateful that I can. (I wrote this post many times in my head, in entirely different ways, but I ended up writing this, which I think finely illustrates my observation.)