The light splintered between my fingertips as I tried to keep the glare out of my eyes. The air was bitter, cold attempted to infiltrate every pore. Yet, the discomfort was only superficial. The electricity in my veins kept me warm as I scampered to the pavilion, prepared to be engulfed by a crowd wrapped in scarves, jerseys and blazers bearing and emblem that, at the time, had meant something different to me than what it does now. It was a symbol of a battle fought and lost, but to this day, I’m not sure whether the war was won.
We’d reached the battleground once more. There was a thrill in the air. As we changed into our battle garb, we knew that somewhere beyond the commotion, our warriors prepared to lead us into battle. I slipped on my school blazer over a crisp white shirt and others did the same. Something about the homogeneity felt safe. It united us and made us strong. But the weight of the encounter, five years in the making, settled like soot on those of us who knew this would be the final fight.
We prepared our battle cry…
And it was over before it had began. The clock ran down to zero. The numbers didn’t add up. It was a battle hard fought and lost. Our cries for victory turned into songs of bitter regret. Some broke down and crumbled in the stands while others tried to provide comfort, struggling through their own tears. It was over and not a soul knew how we’d pick ourselves up again.
But even more painful than this, was the burden of the imminent farewell, now fast approaching. It was the beginning of the end for us. The expanse of the unknown loomed, threatening, before us. And I was terrified – to some extent, we all were – to let go of everything I’d come to know and love.
But you cannot escape goodbyes.
And could you believe it? Life goes on with or without you. Now, the annual struggle between age-old rival schools plays out with different warriors and different war cries. The emblem on their breasts, a symbol of unity and honour, now reminds me of many smaller failures and victories. It also reminds me that although I loved high school, I didn’t like it all that much (if that makes sense).
It’s been two years since I stood on that pavilion singing our beloved school anthem and those who’d stood alongside me have all ventured out into the world. Many of them have forgotten my name, that we’d once laughed at the same jokes and badmouthed the same teachers and I have forgotten many of them as well. But once a year we gather at the battlefield as onlookers and watch as those kids put their heart and souls into cheering on the fifteen boys on the field, their every word and scream laced with a thirst for victory. And I wonder if they realise that in a few months, they’ll probably say goodbye for good. I wonder if it terrifies them in the same way it did me. I wonder if they know that none of that matters anyway because maybe these aren’t the glory days and maybe there is something bigger than the war they’ve been waging these past five years…
I hope they know that they will see another sunrise and the dew will wash the battlefield clean of the blood, sweat and tears of regret and even those of victory. The sun will creep over the horizon and they will leave all these things behind. Match day, Cabaret, even final exams will become distant memories. And that’s when your real journey of self-discovery begins – outside of the sea of blue and yellow blazers.
Regret nothing. Cherish everything, but always look forward to the sunrise.