Last year, at the end of the light show, I ran down with the crowd, looking forward to taking photos with the seniors I knew in front of the volleyball court. Someone said to me, “Will be your turn next year”.
At the first assembly of A2, Ms Iris stood on the stage and said to us, “In eight months we will be celebrating your graduation”.
At the end of January, the G Level classes got together again after a long absence to rehearse the Superman Dance, but eventually had to leave school in a hurry due to the outbreak of Covid. We became the first students to miss the tradition since it was established.
At the beginning of April, we were finally able to return to school. On our first day back at school, we were all eager to hug our long-lost classmates and pour out our thoughts on each other. The epidemic had mercilessly stolen most of the last semester of A2, leaving us with only the last three weeks.
On the first day of senior week, we spent the morning changing into our bachelor’s uniforms for graduation photos and helping each other sort out the difficult bachelor’s hats. In the afternoon, we gathered around the basketball court, waiting for our familiar rhythm to play, and danced to K-Pop music.
On the second day of senior week, at 7pm, students were already coming in, the lights in the building went out one after another and familiar faces became clear on the huge curtain. We ran upstairs, grabbed our glow sticks and gathered around our friends to sing.
On the third day of senior week, Costume Day, I took out my hanbok that had been in my wardrobe for a year and got up the courage to wear it on that day.
On the fourth day of senior week, we took a group photo of the whole year in our house costumes, with a rainbow of red, yellow, blue and green colours spreading across the grand staircase in the bright spring sun. In the afternoon we had a water fight, with everyone grabbing a ‘weapon’ and rushing to the pool to attack their classmates indiscriminately.
On the fifth day of senior week, just after the 10:50am bell, many people were already gathered around the pool. After dancing to the music of Dawn’s “Look at Her”, students around them were thrown into the pool like dumplings. After the students who had been thrown in struggled to climb out of the pool, another group of students were thrown in, and it turned out that probably everyone got in all over again.
At the afternoon flag lowering, the old and new SELTs changed on stage and as the Principal announced the results of the House Cup, the flags were slowly lowered to announce the end of the term and the end of our four years in high school.
Standing at the end of the line and looking forward, I can’t help to think about what moment started the feeling of graduation.
Perhaps it was when the flag was lowered and I, as a member of the old SELT, and the four colleagues I had worked with for a year shouted, “We won’t see you next year!!!” to the whole campus from the stage. And then, with a sour look in their eyes, they waved their hands to the whole of Antuoshan, telling the school, “I’m leaving!”
Perhaps it was after the ‘turtle pond’ ceremony on Friday that I met aunt, who had been cooking for me for four years, on the school path in my wet clothes and on my tired feet. I added my aunt’s WeChat and she said, “You used to add rice all the time, but now that you’re graduating too, remember to come back and see your aunt.” I nodded vigorously and suddenly remembered that when I was at Shui Wai, my auntie used to serve me rice while saying, “Eat more, eat fat. That’s how graduation week is. I’m always caught off guard by memories, and at some point, I suddenly remember the warmth and relief, the regret and loss, and the growth that I once received.
Moving forward, the House uniform group photo on Thursday was a group photo of the whole year, but it was actually a very short photo shoot, with a few clicks within five minutes. It was probably the only time that all around 300 of us in the class got together for a group photo, and group photos are often a precursor to separations, so it was probably the last time we would all get together for a group photo.
I heard several students say that the concept of graduation started to become clear on Tuesday when they shouted at the building. Shenzhen is early in the summer and the evenings are extremely hot. The aisles of the school building were narrow, so my friends and I leaned shoulder to shoulder, singing along to the music, even though the crowd was so noisy that we couldn’t hear what we were singing, and cheering as soon as we saw our friends’ pictures on the screen. By the time ‘The Love Song of the Love Songs’ ended, the crowd had already started to surge, and the one at the front of the line held a lighted sign so bright and prominent that everyone followed down. I could see the lights from the glow sticks shining on their faces. The light and darkness streaking across their faces, some smiling happily, others with tears in their eyes and faces full of reluctance, but all watching us run forward, then putting their hands on our shoulders again, a session following a session down. There were no lights on in the building, but the night was lit up by the glow sticks that streaked across the building like shooting stars, falling to the ground in a galaxy. The noise of the crowd was as thick as a tide, moving around the campus until late.
I think it was not just what I saw, but what I left behind on this night was perhaps more profound than I could have imagined. Perhaps one day when I see a glow stick on a foreign street, squeezing into a noisy crowd in the dim light, I will recall in a wince that night when we were all wrapped in thin sweat, pushing and shoving forward to the sound of the song. People on either side of the road left behind by us, some holding cameras, others waving lighted signs. Wrapped in darkness, the lights, the heat and me, the sound of people in all directions, none of them at the moment as loud as the beating heart drumming in my chest.
We will always miss graduation season because it was a wonderful and fleeting time that was ours alone and will never come again. “We laughed and kept saying ‘See you soon’. But inside we both knew we’d never see each other again.” Whether it was the distant summer we met four years ago, or the sweltering summer we said goodbye to each other, we will look back on it as a summer we will never return to.
A2ers, I wish us all the best of luck in our future, and hope that even though the road ahead is difficult, we will still reach our dreamed destination.
This is a graduation season tweet written at the invitation of the school To be honest, I was worried when I actually started to write this article. There are many friends around me who feel more deeply about the graduation season than I do, and they are probably more qualified to write this article. So I struggled with the whole writing process, first devising a structure with chronological and reversed order, and then discussing and expressing my feelings. Although it was only a short essay of a thousand words or so, the wording and emphasis of the whole essay was changed again and again during the writing process, resulting in the essay taking a few hours longer than expected to complete. The good thing, however, was that I was able to pull my own ideas together and make them clearer during the revision process. Frankly speaking, after the whole graduation week, I was the one who had to write the essay, but instead I was the one who didn’t feel much of a graduation and didn’t really miss it. This article was also a chance for me to ask myself what was going on inside, so you may feel that the whole article is a story of my own attempts to find the realities of graduation. Have I found it? It appeared briefly along with the release as I pounded down the last punctuation, but ultimately it didn’t linger. But I believe it has been hiding in the back of my mind and perhaps, as I describe in the text, may swoop in at some point in the future and bring me back to that eternal summer night. In the end this story emerged as this: it is not Lucy’s graduation story alone, I tried to make it a story that most graduates can empathise with. Because this is the graduation season for all of us in the year, the once and only, never again graduation season. It won’t come again, but the valley of time will echo with all that we have done to say goodbye. Maybe one day you will hear its call.