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Graduation Day

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As the beautiful sky happily accompany sunrays, that shined down on the entrance of the field house where the ceremony of my graduation took place. Someone above must have known it was my graduation day and blessed me with a beautiful day. I was so excited, that the night before the graduation I couldn’t sleep at all. I tossed and turned all night, thinking about the graduation and if he’d even show up. I waited for this moment for four long years and I will make the best of it. The entrance of the field house was filled with students, families, and school officials and conversation was excitedly exchange from one friend to another. I wondered around the place looking for my friends who are already laughing excitedly with each other. After searching through the crowd of people, I finally found them. I sneaked on them and suddenly without warning I tapped on one of my friends shoulder and yelled out “HEY.” She jumped as if the earthquake had occurred. She turned around and said, “You scare the hell out of me.”

We were all laughing and the conversation began once more. “So what do we do afterward?” Janel said. We started to discuss whether we went out to eat later or we go our separate ways. My friend Delcarmen asked me, “What do you think? Where should we go after?” Janel looks at me and says “My family planned to go out and celebrate. Maybe we can meet and hangout later.” Delcarmen looks at me and asks, “Do you have any plan after this? If not, we should go out and celebrate, what do you think?” “My family wants to celebrate tonight as well. I’ll call you later and maybe we could go out or something.” I said. Del looks at the both of us and says, “We’ll talk about it later. We better get inside before the ceremony starts.” As minutes pass by my anxiety begins to hit critical mass. Thousands of screaming families here in attendance to celebrate a moment of accomplishment with their newly graduates. Cheering, screaming, and crying create a sort of indistinct noise that just felt numb. Hundreds of balloons displaying messages of congratulations float in attendance as banners lined the stadium helping to substitute the roar of the crowd. Center stage, the sight of a solid blue and white wall where we stood in approval. Even with all this organized chaos happening around me, I scanned the vast quantity of faces in search of the one particular face. No sight of him.

There standing in a sea of people with her wet face smeared make up was my mother. Cheering, crying, and laughing all at once as if she couldn’t control her emotion. Next to her stood my solitary, one-toned brother. Surprisingly he seemed to have engaged in a yelling competition trying to overpower the crowd to congratulate me. On the opposite side of my mother, stood my strong, yet fragile grandmother. Slow tears streaming from her face as she waves happily to gain my attention on stage. Still no sight of him!

Throughout the ceremony I acted as though nothing was bothering me. I smiled and just played the part of a happy graduate. But in my mind all I could think about was him and how I’d react if he did show up, what I would say to express the past years of absence. What would he say to defend his behalf and would it even be valid? Would I despise him as if I would never forgive him or could I ever forgive him? Am I supposed to be happy if he showed up or angry that he would even show up after all this time?

My childhood upbringing was that of a typical Chamorro family. Every day the boys were expected to work hard and be strong. While the girls do the house chores and made sure we cooked and had the table set. Being the oldest girl in the house I was thought to be hardworking, independent, and tough shelled. Often times when I was on the brink of breaking down I’d be reminded that I was supposed to be tough by the swift stroke of the belt. After numerous “reminding” of this lesson I learned to hold by my emotions to avoid such punishments. Ever since I developed this exterior I’ve never really put down my walls.

The ceremony came to a conclusion and still no appearance, I had begun to lose hope. My family swarming me with hugs and kisses each giving a statement of approval and yet I felt sad. As the crowd dispersed and gone separate ways to celebrate, I was left with a hollowness. How could sadness be present on such a day that is designated for feeling such happiness, laughter, and joy? Externally I appeared ecstatic but internally I had given up.

As we begun to exit the field house along with many other families I had given myself a pep talk. This day was my day and I will make the most of it no matter what. Over all the hollering, I heard a faint but distinct voice call out for me. “Ashley!” I thought to myself there’s probably numerous other people with the same name, and I continued to walk. “Pumpkin.” Someone shouted. That word caught my full attention and a chill had set over my body. I paused, thought about how I’d react at the sight of him, and began to turn around.

Standing a few strides away from me appeared my dad. He was standing the same height as when I last saw him but now with a bit more weight around the waist. His hair combed back, wavy, and as black as ever. Wearing a short sleeve black button up shirt tucked into his dark blue jeans boarded by a leather belt with a large buckle. Worn out, oily, and scuffed boots upon his battered feet and upon his face was a smile. The smile he displayed was the largest I’ve ever witnessed. His smile reached ear to ear and every pearly white on display. His mustache tickled the tip of his nose, while his beard connected with his sideburns. Awkwardly he stood there with his hands in his pockets timid on how to greet me.

As I approached, so many thoughts overloaded my mind and it seemed to have taken forever to reach him. I struggled to blurt out anything that came to mind and I wanted so badly to express myself but no words escaped. Suddenly, I felt a warm embrace. No words preceded this action but oddly I didn’t care. I felt as if everything in the past doesn’t matter right now. As my shoulder where he braced his face begin to moisten, I then realized that even he had been contemplating this moment just as much as I had. My mind I had gone empty, just peaceful silence calmed me and I knew right there that we loved each other no matter what. We stood there for a few moments in our embrace exchanging silent tears. Finally he said “congratulations my girl, I know I haven’t always been there but I’m here now.” I looked up at him with tears rolling down my cheek and said “I’m glad you made it.”

For the next week we spent every day together just relearning one another. He told me about what he does in California and that he plans to get married. I shared my plans after high school on what I want to become and how I would achieve my goals. Before I knew it he had departed once more from my life but, this time was different. Now we were more understanding of the past and how we could improve our future together as father and daughter.

This was a very important event in my life because; I realized that even being raised with a tough upbringing that it is okay to show emotions. During my youth, I’d never show my true personality but to break out of my shell and I have a new found courage to experience life without fear and failure.

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