When I was in elementary school, there was a single day that everyone looked forward to. In the late spring of every year, the entire school would gather in a large field behind the school building for field day. Lunch would be served early, and then over the course of an afternoon, students would race, grade level by grade level, in a number of different events. There were sack races, three-legged races, sprints, and even a short endurance race around the entire school campus. We celebrated both the winners and the opportunity to be out of class, even if it was only for an afternoon. When I was in fourth grade, I had talked one of my best friends into entering the three-legged race with me. We breezed through the preliminary races and established ourselves as the team to beat entering the finals for our grade level. We lined up and waited for the whistle to blow. Our plan was established: we would start with our inside leg and begin the same cadence that got us to the finals. We were unbeatable; the race was already ours. We launched out to an early lead as the race started and began the same process of extending our lead with each step we took. As we reached the last ten yards, we had continued to extend our lead, and I looked back to check and see who was going to bring up second place. This was the moment I took my mind off what we were doing, I missed a step, and we both faceplanted into the green grass that made up the racecourse. As we struggled to get back to our feet, we watched a team of two girls from our class pass us and cross the finish line for the win. By looking too far ahead, I had cost us the victory. We crossed the finish line second. I hid the red ribbon we were given for finishing second. It was a tough reminder of what happens when we get ahead of ourselves.
As early as elementary school field day, we learned that after you crossed the finish line, there was almost always another race. Even if you fall flat on your face, there is always another opportunity to line up and begin moving towards a goal. The same is true of graduation; there will be more finish lines, more opportunities, more big decisions. For some, this is represented by the pursuit of a college degree; for others, it becomes work experiences or a career. In school, as well as in life, we learn to embrace the next race.
Sometimes living life at full speed ahead can be dangerous. When we take our eyes off of what’s right in front of us, we run the risk of losing our footing and stumbling. The last few months have taught us to appreciate the moment. There is power in slowing down to appreciate the right now. I encourage you to keep moving towards your goals, but in the process, don’t miss the moments of adventure right in front of you. Don’t get so hyperfocused that you miss your moment.
As we wrap up this school year, we realize that seniors have missed out on many of the activities that naturally come along with completing high school. While the finish line might not look like we had envisioned, these students will cross it and graduate next week. We are proud of what they have accomplished, and we look forward to watching what they do once they leave us. Seniors, cherish these moments as you wrap up high school and get ready for whatever might be next. Years from now, when you look back on this season, it will be these moments of adventure and not just the finish line that you remember. Pick your moments well; they will be with you for a lifetime.