It was the day of my graduation and the alarm clocks, spread across the dorm room, awoke me from my sleep. I rolled over to the other side of my twin sized bed to get a glance out the window. The suns radiance became too strong for my sleepy eyes. Ring! Ring! Ring! Anna’s alarm clock still ranged for about seven minutes. She was never great at slapping her snooze button to its finale, but in that very moment I appreciated her alarm clock because it was the last day I would ever hear it again. I arose from bed to start my last morning routine with my roommates. It always started off quietly, but once Kristina got out the shower music became our energy drink to completely wake us up from our early morning misery. Every morning we sang to our favorite songs, and dance around using every little space we had in our tiny room. In that very moment I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that it was my last day at the Honor Academy.
The year I graduated was relieving because it opened my heart to accept a new chapter that started right after I walked across the stage. As I put on my floral black dress, my heart broke into pieces, not quite ready to put an end to that milestone in my life. Before heading out the door, I walked over to the mirror to adjust myself, only to realize that soon everything would be over. The Honor Academy became home to me, a place where I encountered the unfailing, relentless love of God. Although, it was a year of hardships and doubt, it soon turned into faith that I never grasped before. My many friendships established there became everlasting. Letting go was not exactly a cup of tea for me. I was afraid to go out to the real world; I was afraid to face life at home where the world was against me. I was not ready. Why is this happening? Why does it have to end so soon? Filling almost half of the auditorium, 400 of us were graduating that morning. We walked heel-to-heel to our seats.
Family and friends stared at us with such excitement, while some of them flashed their cameras so close to my eyes that caused my feet to trip over a cable on the floor that was securely taped down on to the ground. Shaking off such embarrassment, I quickly found my seat. The ceremony was about to begin, and my heart raced fast, not skipping a beat. I was angry. I looked around to get a last glance at my peers; I just could not come to a conclusion that it was my last day with them. The worship band stepped onto the stage, and the auditorium quickly transformed into a music concert setting; lights dimmed low replacing them with colorful lights that painted the walls, and loud music that muted everyone around me. Standing there in awe, I closed my eyes as my mind wandered around so many memories of the year. The last song concluded, and I opened my eyes to find a room filled with so many hugs, tears, and joy that were contagiously wonderful.
The ceremony continued as we took our seats. It was finally the moment to complete my year. I got closer to the steps that would soon lead me on to the stage, and I immediately heard my name, Sirley Reyes. Making sure to look down, I took each step forward. My feet slowly moved across the stage as I received my certificate and went along the line to shake the hands of each leader. “Congratulations Sirley,’’ said Mr. Pruett as he handed me over my certificate. Upon taking the certificate in my hands an unexpected transition of emotions occurred. It was like I had forgotten such disappointment that stirred up in my heart five minutes ago. I finally stepped off the stage to notice more leaders lined up waiting for me. Quickly my attitude changed. Stepping off the stage, I noticed some of my friends as they celebrated the finishing success of my year.
Handshakes became hugs, hugs became tears, and tears became joy. After all the affection, I approached my seat once again and waited as I watched the rest of my peers walk across the stage. In those few seconds I realized that my anger towards leaving was not just because of the good-byes, but because I was afraid to step into a world where I knew so many wouldn’t accept me for my faith in Jesus Christ. I was afraid to feel alone in my beliefs. I wouldn’t have the same community of people like the ones formed at the Honor Academy, but I decided to be okay with moving on. My heart relieved as I courageously accepted the next chapter in my life. Today, my thoughts are accompanied by the many memories I experience in that year. Memories that, when they come to mind, will always fill my eyes with joyous tears.
I’m thankful with God for leading me to a place where there was complete restoration and refinement in my life. I am thankful at the relief from the emptiness I felt in life, and such unhappiness I was consumed with at the beginning of that year. My faith became stronger than ever, not only because of testimonies I heard along the way, but because I chose to experience it for myself; I chose to believe in a God that many people do not believe in. Through my curiosity I found true happiness and a new beginning in my life. Although it was hard to let go of this place I once called home, I’m grateful that I left with a new life of freedom, free to be me. I will forever have the memories of the Honor Academy hidden in my heart, because that’s where I found a new life with God.