I remember the year before you started Kindergarten. You, so angry that they wouldn’t let you begin a year early, when you were clearly ready. I purchased several workbooks for us to do at home, foolishly believing they would hold you over until the next fall. I thought they would keep you busy, and maybe give you an edge up on the other students when you began school. Often you would get frustrated with them, and I don’t know if it was because they were too easy for you, or if even back then you hated busy work. I still remember the day you read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me, and I couldn’t decide if you were really reading it, or had just memorized the words. Either way, I was impressed.
The next year we bought a house and moved to Troy, and you began first grade. Your teacher that year was amazing, and she quickly realized that you were far more advanced than most of her class. She moved you up to the second grade for reading instruction, although I didn’t find out about it until the year was half over. I remember the day I went to see the display your class had created about the layers of the ocean, and you stood up and taught us about bioluminescence. I about fell over listening to that big word come out of your small self.
In fourth grade you chose Utah for your State Expo project because your best friend used to live there. It turned out to be a poor choice, as it was a difficult state to get products from, and that was a big part of your grade. In sixth grade you chose Zimbabwe for your Biome project because it was the last country on the list. Again, not the easiest country to research, but when do you do easy?
Each year in elementary school you watched your best friend move away at the end of the year and my heart broke for you. I watched, as the other kids grew closer, forging friendships that had lasted since kindergarten, and you struggled, starting over every year. When you were in fourth grade, your Grandma told me that she thought you were depressed, and I brushed her off. I remember telling her that you were just shy and moody, and fine. In a dark, quiet corner of my heart, I still have not forgiven myself for that. Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder how different your life might have been if I had paid more attention. How much pain and struggle I could have spared you. Then I think back on my own life, and if I can teach you nothing else, it is that the pain and struggle shapes our characters and makes us stronger.
Middle School and High School haven’t been the easiest years for you. I have watched you try to fit your square peg into a round hole, and almost succeed. You have stretched yourself to your limits, time and time again. I have watched you step out of your comfort zone, trying your hand at tennis, and discovering that it wasn’t your thing, and then stepping up to be a peer mediator, and shining. You have taken on leadership roles that have pushed you to be more social and have taught you about patience and responsibility. You have failed, and then risen above it, mostly, to a place where you were ok with. When your whole world started to collapse around you, you reached inside, and found that one last little bit of strength, and in the bravest move you could’ve made, you reached out and asked for help.
You have come to the end of your journey through early learning, and in a few days you will walk across that stage and they will hand you a piece of paper that will signify to the world that you have accomplished something. That paper really means nothing. The experiences that you carry forward, the lessons that you have learned, and the memories that you made… they are what you have accomplished. Your journey is only just beginning. I hope you have a great adventure.