To the editor:
I’m a true blue Bainbridge girl.
My credentials include having worn the tiniest Bay Hay shirts imaginable, constructed moss fairy houses in the Grand Forest, and seen my nickname appear on the road after Paint Night during the spring of my senior year. I spent four stress- and anxiety-filled years at Bainbridge High School before graduating in 2010 to end up at a private liberal arts college. I’m “successful.”
However, I never gave much thought to the pompous graduation question that I was asked 101 times, “Where are you going to college next year?”
Assuming that I was to attend a reputable four-year institution, nobody gave any consideration to the fact that maybe I had a different, more creative plan or perhaps my parents could not afford to pay for this chapter in my life. This one question and the contrived expectations that go with it construct a mythic island society in which all of our students are able to hurry on to higher education right after high school. We assume it is right for everyone.
Failure to do so is, well, failure. In reality people in my generation can grow into kind, happy, intelligent, and productive community members without an arduous stint in academia. Are they successful? Apparently not.
On Bainbridge a young adult’s answer to the “college question” that does not immediately include college receives a judgmental offhand comment or coded confusion. In a community where self-esteem and academic performance are inextricably linked those small cold remarks are deeply painful. It hurts, and we do it again and again. Our narrow definition of success makes those with a different plan or incomprehensible obstacles feel like lesser individuals. My heart aches for them in compassionate frustration.
So, please, be critical of the judgments you project on BHS grads and how you phrase your questions. Can I challenge our “progressive” island to finally shift an antiquated and even painful paradigm in time for next year’s class? Can we finally redefine success? And for those of you who are dying to know what a graduate’s plan is for the future, find an open-minded way to ask them.