I remember graduating high school. The awkward cap and flowing gown – everything I’d dreamt about, everything I’d waited for. That split second of relief washed through me, goose bumps attacked my skin. I’d done it. Now what? I moved on, went to university, constantly haunted by the idea of work. Dollar signs blurred my vision, the future overshadowing my present. I was dying for an apartment, a space in Manhattan, one of those buildings with winding fire escapes, just like the movies. Then I got it. I got the job, I got the money, I got the apartment. The bills came in and I paid them. Just like I should have. I never used the fire escape. Man proposed, divorce followed within a couple of years. That’s life. Stretch marks darkened with every month and, before I knew it, I was buying diapers and cribs and plastic toys that played the same song over and over again. The kids grew up and went their separate ways. Finally. I was dying to travel. A plane ticket and an empty bank account later, I’d made it to Australia – a seventy three year old woman with mismatched socks and hair greyer than the rocks I flung into the ocean. And only then did I begin to realise that, through it all, through all the expectations and waiting and dying for the next big thing, I’d forgotten everything in between. I’d forgotten to live.
The applause echoed. My blurred vision focused like the lens of my father’s camera. My mother cheered louder than her voice would let her. I blinked at my name printed onto the diploma, wrapped up with a red ribbon. I’d done it. And, with a single handshake, high school was over.
“So, what do you want to do now?” They asked.
For Leah Daymon