The halls were hushed, closing in on us. The clocks ticking grated on our ears as we counted down the hours, minutes, seconds. Friends and strangers softly pat each other on the back with hollow words of encouragement. No one could sit still. We had prepared for this day for our entire lives, and we were terrified.
Wait, I already said that.
Where was I?
Founders, yada yada, seven years, stress, Count of Monte Cristo, etcetera etcetera etcetera…
Ah. January seventeenth.
After months of strenuous hard work, our teacher told us to take our fourteen page paper, and cut it down to an eight minute speech. We, of course, threw a whole entire fit. How were we supposed to cut out so much vital information? This project was our baby! We’d been working on it for longer than the natural nine months and did NOT want to pull a King Solomon and only give a limb to whoever was willing to hear. Oh yeah, and it was a public presentation, with everyone and their dog invited to come. Maybe we overreacted, just a tad.
After Christmas break was over, we would cut a few more sentences away from our papers. Tears might have even been shed. Then we started rehearsing. How could we make our presentation the most clear to people who maybe had never even read the book? How could we make our arguments clear without pages and pages of evidence and explanation? We constantly pestered our teachers and advisors and parents and friends to “read it just one more time”.
The day of the big event, we all came to school wearing our best clothes and scaredest faces. Underclassmen gazed at us with wide eyes as we walked through the halls as those preparing to be sacrificed on an altar of classical education. Our teachers blessed us with no homework for the night, but didn’t quite let us off the hook for classwork although we were operating at about 12%. The day went by too fast, as we desperately clawed at each second for just a little bit more time, a little bit more practice, a little bit more anything. We weren’t ready to risk our graduation on fifteen minutes of presentation and Q&A.
The presentations began.
I was able to watch a few before heading upstairs to decide my fate.
As I began talking to my two panelists, my mind became void of everything but panic and the words I was reading off my page. Like the rest of the day, the minutes passed in a blink. Suddenly I was sitting down, my friends and family were congratulating me, promising me ice cream, telling me how good I did, and the next presenter was standing.
I felt horrible about it. So much could’ve been said. No one I had seen ran out of time on their questions. It all felt so unfinished. I sadly ate my ice cream. The next day I didn’t look at the scores. I didn’t want to know.
I got a 97.
I will be graduating on 25 May.
- Emily N.