The hallway was a sea of papers thrown every which way as a final act of celebration, defiance, or peer pressure. He reached down and picked up one of the stray papers on the floor. It was crumpled and had two shoe prints on it, one nearly smack in the middle and one leading off its right hand corner. It was comical, really – this annual act of chaos, for what was school if not ordered and organized?
He thought back through the years. He recalled the early years of preschool and kindergarten where he made friends, said goodbye for the day with high fives, and happily absorbed first things like making paper costumes for holidays and counting to one hundred. Memories of home school years with his sisters were a collage of songs about fractions, and reading assignments in the tree house, and timed tests, and the quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog typing lessons. He thought of the Middle School years when all around him tried to fit in while feeling out-of-place. And here he was – in the High School hallway he’d walked through countless times. He looked around. The halls were quiet now. Everyone had rushed outside to linger over last goodbyes for the year and then jump into summer with both feet.
What was it really, this routine of sitting and listening and reading and writing and studying and testing? What was the working out problems on a sheet of paper? What was the rehearsing of lines and notes? He stared off in the distance, turning it over in his mind. The future could hold more of the same if he chose, and he did. But not the same. Sitting in a class was a small part of learning. It provided building blocks. But how to use those blocks – that was the real assignment. And how to live his life – that was the true test.
He was on his own now. He would decide what to study just as he would decide what paths to take and which to leave untraveled. The shoe print smack in the middle of the paper? It wasn’t his. But the other one, the one beginning its own trail? A shadow of a smile crossed his face. If it wasn’t his now, it would be.
Photo: Joe Mabel [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons