“They said it’d take five… I did it in four,” is written under my graduation photo in the 2022 yearbook. As a 2005 born, this wasn’t supposed to be my grad year. What is there to know about the unique and somewhat unusual experience of graduating high school at the age of sixteen?

I hadn’t yet taken my class 7 road test, meaning I still couldn’t drive alone. My mom turned the corner, taking us down the one way road into the parking lot of my school. The building’s many tall windows gleamed in the sunlight. It was early morning in January 2022, and it’d been decided mere weeks ago that I was going to graduate in less than five months. The reality of that decision hadn’t quite set in and still wouldn’t for another four months. Walking up to my school, the nerves began to set in as I anticipated the difficulty of my french test that afternoon.

Over winter break I’d started thinking about post secondary options and opportunities which produced more questions than answers. My grades felt as though they were the determining factor of my future. Of course, that wasn’t true, but in the stress of the moment we tend to forget those things. What I did know was I had very little intention of furthering my French skills past grade 12. I’d been a French Immersion student since kindergarten and I knew I was fluent enough that if I ever encountered a french speaker or had the chance to travel to Paris, I’d be able to communicate just fine. To this day, I’m delighted to make use of my linguistic skills.

I was immersed in my final high school semester and as the countdown to my last day grew smaller and smaller, I started to realize how much I was leaving behind. My best friend was the first to point it out and she made it clear… daily. “I can’t believe you’re leaving me!” I would hear it over and over and over again, until eventually it turned into, “I can’t believe you left me.” That alone was enough to cause a pang in my chest.

Graduating itself didn’t live up to the hype, at least not for me. It felt unnatural to be wearing the cap and gown. I remember driving to an Artona in Vancouver where my mom got emotional as I took grad photos. I’m sure I felt a sense of sadness leaving my teenage years behind, but this was the odd part of still being only sixteen – my teenage years felt far from over. It was like it was only yesterday that I started them! I still needed to turn seventeen, eighteen and nineteen. Despite all the ceremonies and celebrations, my time still hadn’t come. This paradox is what I prominently thought about through the months leading up to my graduation. In my mind, I still had time before I became a ‘true adult.’

I also didn’t graduate with very many people I knew. If I’d waited another year, I would’ve been celebrating with a few good friends. The emptiness hit me once I sat down at my table during Dinner & Dance and hardly knew the person beside me. The entire night felt as if I was eavesdropping on conversations among friends. It wasn’t as pleasant as it could’ve been if I spent that night with my own people.

There are days I still feel weird about having already graduated. A part of me thinks I’ll magically grow up one day, graduate again and it’ll all make sense. Even after completing a semester of college, my thoughts are conflicted when it comes to who I am and what stage of life I’m in. You could say it’s a bit of a quarter life crisis. Just like over my education thus far, I need to trust the process and maybe my life or algebra will hopefully, one day soon, make sense to me.

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