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When the high school stage of life ends

Graduation ceremony.

Graduation ceremony. Credit: iStock

Back in January, I was watching a college football game and came to a realization: As a high school senior, pretty soon, I’ll be the same age as some of the top athletes in the world. For example, Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, was born in January 1997, just a little more than two years before my birthday in May 1999.

This realization was both confusing and comforting. Until this point, I’d always thought of top athletes in another generation. I’d had no real connection to people in the news or playing sports on TV because they were so much older. But pretty soon, people my age will be the ones dominating the news.

The comfort came in understanding that as I prepare to graduate Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick, I’m not that far off from entering the real world, and I will have a chance to make a name for myself.

Right now, I’m at the end of one of life’s arcs, with many more to come.

As seniors, many in my class developed superiority complexes. We’d see baby-faced ninth-graders in the halls and think, “Ugh, those annoying freshmen.” Or we’d hear juniors complain about starting the college application process, with its countless essays and tours, and say to each other, “Those juniors have no idea what they’re talking about.” Of course, last year’s seniors said the same thing about last year’s juniors, repeating a timeless cycle.

This year’s seniors are at the top of the totem pole looking down, but not for long. Soon, as we dream of becoming the next great athletes and scientists and leaders, many of us will go back to being awkward freshmen in college. Then a few years later, as college graduates, we’ll become interns or entry-level workers and start climbing the corporate ladder, moving up the totem pole again.

Psychologist and author Thomas Armstrong writes that life is made up of 12 stages. He emphasizes that no stage is more important than another, and each has its own unique gifts.

An 18-year-old can feel trapped wishing he or she could be an adult, not celebrating the passion and energy he or she already possesses. Young adults might feel impatient, thinking they haven’t accomplished anything yet, not realizing what Armstrong says is the great gift of enterprise that inspires them to strive for their goals.

There is no peak in life, no grand finale when you are above everybody else. At the same time, there is no trough in life; at no point is a human worthless and below others. Just as an infant isn’t below everyone else, our elders aren’t above everyone else.

It’s almost as if each stage is a reincarnation, but we’re lucky enough to remember our “past life.” We take the lessons from each stage and apply them to the next, hoping to reach our greatest potential. Do we ever?

If the stages are equivalent, I do think they have their ups and downs. You don’t stay on the top for long, and you don’t stay on the bottom either.

A note to my fellow graduating seniors: Before we move on to another arc, we should enjoy the top of this stage while it lasts.

Reader David Bekore lives in Merrick.