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Day 136

High school never ends! Today is July 31.

Last night I dreamed about the pandemic. I was sitting around other people, but none of us had masks on. I got trapped between two groups, so I excused myself and found another place to sit. There was a mother with a crying baby, and I had to help take care of the child, but I was so nervous about getting sick because everyone was coughing. I ended up racing out of the building, which was when I woke up. I’m pretty sure my stress dream resulted from me being nervous about graduation and being around a crowd, so hopefully I’m back to only fun dreams for a while.

Valedictorians Toan Vu and Bailey Stover pose for a photo at their high school graduation July 31. Photo by Robin Stover.

I got out of bed at 9:08 a.m., tossed on a non-pajama top and was in the living room by 9:10 a.m. to start watching the “This is Honors” Zoominar for the University of Missouri ― Columbia (MU) Honors College. The event officially started at 9:30 a.m., but I had to watch a presentation ahead of time. For two hours I sat at my computer listening while various faculty members and student speakers talked about life at MU and the perks of being a member of the Honors College. I took notes and paid attention for the most part, but sometimes I would space out. I’m sure students found the speakers and presentation helpful, but because I live in town and my brother (and both parents) are MU graduates, I already feel familiar with the school. 

When the Zoominar ended, I took a shower and shaved so I’d be clean for my graduation ceremony in the evening. My hair takes several hours to dry completely, so I didn’t want to wait until too close to the ceremony to shower otherwise my hair wouldn’t curl fully. After I was done I talked with my mom for a bit about the prints of my senior photos, which had come in today, and she showed me the various frames she’d picked out for them. I’m not the biggest fan of having my face all over our house, but she was excited and I was indifferent enough I went along with her ideas. 

For the next couple hours I lounged around and watched the first few episodes of the second season of The Umbrella Academy. It’s a strange show, but I like it a lot. The characters and plot are interesting and relatively unpredictable, so I don’t feel bored. I am glad the series was able to come out with its second season during this time of COVID-19 when so many other shows weren’t able to finish filming or have encountered other obstacles in production because of the pandemic. I’m not sure when I’ll have time to finish the season, but so far it looked excellent.

After leaving the stage, graduate Bailey Stover poses for a photo with her diploma. Photo by Robin Stover.

Around 3:45 p.m. I began getting ready to leave for RBHS. My parents wanted to go an hour from then, and I didn’t want to run us late to my own graduation. I’m not a huge makeup person, but for special occasions I do my best to look nice. I didn’t go overboard at all, and I think what I added looked fine. I parted my hair and let it dry the rest of the way, and it ended up curling well. Around 4:30 p.m. I went to my room and put on my dress and shoes. Before we left, my parents had me put on my cap and gown and take a few pictures in our driveway. 

The three of us drove to RBHS and parked in South before heading in together. I waited in line to turn in my photo form and got my medallion (at least that’s what I think they’re called) before heading into the auxiliary gym. I couldn’t figure out how to get the medallion out of its package and was almost bested by plastic wrap, but eventually I prevailed. I talked with my friend and co-Editor-In-Chief Anna Xu for a few minutes before finding my seat.

After a while RBHS Principal Jacob Sirna came over and asked senior Toan Vu and I to join him to talk about how we will receive our valedictorian certificates during the graduation ceremony. It seemed straightforward, and I was excited to be recognized. I know logically being a valedictorian of my high school class isn’t that big of a deal in the long-run of life, but I’ve worked hard these last four years and have earned the title. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and this recognition was nice.

Following the graduation ceremony, RBHS Principal Jacob Sirna and graduate Bailey Stover smile together. Photo by Bailey Stover.

A little before 6 p.m. we received our instructions on how to walk into the gym, when to stand, what side our tassels should be on and how the ceremony will work in general. We then walked in lines to the gym where we followed the leader to our seats to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” by Amadeo Lopez and Edward Elgar. I distinctly remember playing the song during my freshman and sophomore years at graduation, and its tune is burned into my brain. My one goal during the whole graduation ceremony was to not trip, so whenever I was walking that kept going through my mind.

The ceremony itself was lovely. Sirna’s words to the graduating class were sweet, and I enjoyed getting to hear Anna’s speech. When Toan and I got our valedictorian awards, neither of us fell down, which was a success. Being up on the stage felt nice, and in that moment I was proud of all I’d done and sacrificed to be standing where I was. There was a lot of standing and sitting for the levels of academic honors and National Honors Society recognition, and then we were on to the diploma part of the evening. Rather than sitting through hundreds of students, our group was small and mostly polite. Two students who are identical twins did switch their name cards, though, which caused a bit of confusion and laughter. Overall I had a great time.

When the official ceremony itself ended, I stuck around for half an hour more taking photos with friends, Sirna and talking. Anna and I ended up going to the journalism room to take a few pictures, which was sad and nostalgic. I didn’t end up crying or tearing up at all, though, because for the most part I was happy and just wanted to smile. After we finished the photoshoot part of the evening, my parents and I drove to Sycamore to pick up our dinner order. We’d had a gift certificate for the restaurant, so we decided to get my graduation dinner from there.

These are my valedictorian certificate and my official high school diploma. Photo by Bailey Stover.

Once we were at home I took a few photos with my grandpa and brother before the five of us dug into our food. The weather was lovely, so we ate outside. I’d say we talked, but it was more like we were all shouting on top of one another having three different conversations at the same time. I could barely hear anything, but it was so much fun. My grandpa and brother had watched the livestream of my graduation, so they didn’t miss out on much. It meant the world to me that my grandpa came down to celebrate my graduation. We ate the German chocolate cake my mom and I had baked yesterday, and except for it being a touch too dry, it was delicious. I love my family so much and couldn’t have imagined a better evening.

After my grandpa drove back to his house, my family and I stayed outside on the deck for a while longer talking about college and music and life and the future. When I started getting a little chilly, we moved inside where my parents surprised me with gifts. On the more practical side I ended up with a tool box and a picture frame for my official graduation photo. On the fun side I got a book of quotes, two T-shirts (one with a quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the other with a reference to the Nerd Herd from Chuck) and three stunning prints of the pier from up in Canada where we usually vacation. My dad said he got me the last gift because we couldn’t go up this year. I truly couldn’t have imagined a better graduation. 

“Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.”

Nora Ephron

Life is crazy and busy and messy and stressful, but it is also breathtakingly beautiful. I am grateful for my loving, supportive family. I look forward to many more years of adventures and chaos with them, especially as I enter the next stage of my life in college. Tomorrow I have to get ready for my graduation party, and I want to try and watch a few episodes of Chuck, maybe some Veronica Mars, and definitely play a game of Spades, so I’ll try to get some sleep. With how excited I feel, though, that might be a difficult task.

“Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.” Nora Ephron

How did you spend your 136th day of social distancing? Let us know in the comments below.

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