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End of the Year Gathering: The Finale

It’s Erica, your new high school graduate.

My cap slowly slid off my head with each round of applause as each person stood up to receive their diplomas. By the time I got up, it was clinging onto my head with its last elastic breaths, and I tore it off as soon as I stepped off the stage.

I’m thankful that alphabetical order allowed me to sit between Levi and Aidan—they told me I wasn’t going to die when I needed to hear it most and even kept copies of  my speech just in case I passed out on the way to the podium. During my speech my eyes kept flitting around the audience, looking for Allison somewhere in the pews, but I couldn’t locate her frazzled head anywhere.

(neither Levi nor Aidan)

(neither Levi nor Aidan)

I couldn’t believe that was it. This was the event we had all been waiting for, to solidify the end of high school. The caps and the gowns, the sea of family and friends, this was all it. Pomp and Circumstance sounded ten times better when we were marching to its tune down the aisles.

But those two hours were just as fleeting as the rest of that long-awaited week. For a week we were removed into our lives and placed in Lancaster to make the Eden our home. For one last week we rotated between swinging on the playground and sitting in the lobby and eating at Garfield’s. We went out to movies, to dinner, to the park, and to coffee, spending our nights and days pretending, as we always have, to be normal friends.

In the matching t-shirts

And the days in Philadelphia.

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The 3am breakfasts

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And the 1940s swing dancing.

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Even in sitting on the grass

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Or sitting in the car.

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This was VPSA. This was the best part and the worst part about going to Veritas, the best part and worst part of such a physically distant yet painfully personal high school community.

And for one last time, the Gathering ended with eating Subway at the park and making a flurry of goodbyes. They were more heartfelt this time, as we went around not knowing which goodbyes were merely a “see you later” and which were actually permanent. But a couple days later, here we are now, no longer shoulder to shoulder but mile to mile and state to state and ocean to ocean, awaiting the future in which some of our paths will converge again.

While I was always somewhat annoyed that I never went to a ‘real’ high school, that I could never easily explain to people what school or what kind of school I went to, I’m still proud and grateful to have graduated from VPSA. Despite the odds, despite the harrowing distance, despite the unorthodox method of education, we made it to the EOTYG one last time and graduated together.

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I’m a little biased, but VPSA, the class of 2016 was the best class you will ever have.

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See You Soon

BY ERICA

In the forty-one classes I’ve taken at Veritas, the majority of my classmates have only been words on a screen—names I would never see again. If they never talked participated in class, they would be nothing to me—without personality, voice, or image. Veritas can be frighteningly impersonal.

But sometimes, if you’re lucky enough, some names will turn into actual people with actual personalities.

Maybe one day, out of the blue, some random classmate you’ve never cared or thought about before in your life will message you on Instagram, asking for help on some organic chemistry problem set, and a conversation starts. Maybe it’ll turn out that seven months later, your life has plunged downhill, you two are now best friends, and you both are running a blog rooted in bad bread puns.

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There is such an exceptional feeling in spending time with other VPSAers—perhaps it stems from the small time frame. Whether it’s at the End of the Year Gathering or some extended sleepover, there’s such a rush of adventure and lack of normalcy, this urge to fit as much fun as possible into a week as normal friends would fit into a year. Beaches. Museums. Amusement parks. Movies. Mini golfing. Sightseeing. It’s a race against the clock, and we secret agents have only one mission: to saturate our time together with memorable adventures before the clock strikes midnight.

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The attempt to saturate our time together with adventure is what led me and Allison to walk through a particularly sketchy region of Los Angeles late one night. Earlier that day, we had walked through the oldest street in LA, ate sushi in Little Tokyo, visited City Hall, and browsed through a mortuary, but that wasn’t enough. We had taken a 2-hour train ride to the ocean and walked around the pier, but that wasn’t enough either. It was 9pm, and we wanted some burgers. Completely disregarding the fact that it was late at night, In-N-Out was over a mile from the train station, and we weren’t in a very friendly part of LA, we did it anyway.

As we tread through the dark, only pausing to scan the shadows for suspicious-looking figures, we talked about how painfully normal our friendship would be if we hadn’t happened to live on completely opposite corners of the country. That’s what every VPSA friendship is about, really: the longing for everything to be normal. The constant wishing that we all lived in the same city and could be at each other’s house at a moment’s notice.

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Even as I type this, Sarah is sending me videos on Snapchat of her and Harry second half of Summer 2k15 Part 2 1844freestyle rapping, about, coincidentally, me writing a blog post about them. Sometimes I think about how I could be there too. She’s invited me to her house at least 67 times in the past couple days, and I keep telling her that when I have time, I’ll clear out my weekend, hop in the car, and show up with Chick-fil-A. Someday.

Even just driving with Veronica to see Harry and Sarah for the afternoon took a great deal of dedication. It was 6 hours of me criticizing her for not driving over the speed limit and her complaining that I kept swerving whenever she tried to take artsy pictures of the ocean. We left later than we planned because I insisted on making a stop at the most crowded bakery in the city. We forgot to get gas before leaving. We had to walk back to the parking lot to move the car every 2 hours. We got home obnoxiously late. We were both dead tired. With an average person in an average friendship it would have just been an average day—but it wasn’t.

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In the end, although having best friends who are scattered around the country isn’t ideal, it adds a much-needed element of appreciation for it all. Appreciation for being able to see each other a few times a year. Appreciation for being able to Skype and talk and text even though we all live thousands of miles apart. Appreciation for the little bits of time and the long distances we go just to be in the same room. Even though I do wish we all lived closer, I’m grateful that I haven’t taken these people and these friendships for granted—because who knows how painfully normal our friendships would become. Who knows how many experiences we would’ve missed out on if we didn’t feel the need to make the most of our time together. Who knows how many jokes would have never been told, what risky decisions would have been forgone, and which places we would have never been to.

Who knows.

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Through it all, I’m thankful for every Skype “study session”, every brief meetup, and every EOTYG countdown. The goodbyes may be hard and the “I miss you”s may be prevalent, but the “see you soon”s that turn into “see you next month” that turn into “see you next week” that turn into “see you tomorrow” are what keep us running.