Working on this graduation issue I couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. I looked at the student photos and plans, and read about the students’ excitement and fears, and it brought me right back to the summer of 2012 following my graduation from Gibraltar High School.
From the day I got my acceptance letter to Lawrence University to the day I removed my graduation cap, I was beyond excited. It was my first-choice school and I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.
That summer was a typical Door County, high-school-aged whirlwind of cleaning hotel rooms in the morning, waiting tables at night, and squeezing in late-night visits with friends, often at the lake for an evening swim. We were all on cloud nine thinking of the next chapter, the new adventures to come.
Our fun gatherings eventually turned to hugs and tearful whispers of “I’ll miss you.” My excitement waned. It really sunk in for the first time that I would be leaving my home, my family, my friends and everything I had ever known. Worse, I began to worry about failure and my excitement hardened into fear. I began to question my choice.
As with most future imaginings, college wasn’t what I expected. But despite my fears, my first few weeks at Lawrence were eased by familiar faces – former coworkers and Gibraltar alumni who took the time to show me around and make my transition to college life easier. I now see those moments for what they really were – my home and this Door County community always there to support me, even though it was miles away.
Growing up in a small community I often felt suffocated with the lack of anonymity. Everyone knows your name and if they don’t know yours, they know your parents, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents, your second cousin once removed. It wasn’t until I left that I was able to look at my hometown from the outside in. This new perspective caused my appreciation to grow. I began to understand the value in the things I’d left behind.
Speaking as one who returned after college, there are more opportunities in Door County than you may think. Possibilities that seem so infinite only outside Door County are also available here. All it takes sometimes is a different perspective to be able to see those.
Making the decision to come home after graduation wasn’t easy, but I knew I had a community of people to support me. My family and friends, employees who gave me opportunities when I lacked experience – I’m still here today because of their support.
To the graduating seniors that are feeling excited and nervous, I encourage you to feel it fully. No matter what you end up doing or where you go, Door County will always be here for you, maybe following you in surprising ways, maybe luring you back to this place that will always be home.
Congratulations class of 2022. We’re proud of you.
About the Graduation Issue
The Graduation Issue, included in the May 20-27 issue of the Peninsula Pulse, is a special issue that’s produced, printed and distributed free by the Peninsula Pulse to recognize the students of Door County’s five school districts. The issue contains photos of the graduates, their plans for the future, and more. The Pulse thanks each of our local schools for their help putting this section together, and for guiding these students to their graduation day. Congratulations to these students, their families and all the teachers and mentors who helped them along the way.