For many of us, graduations can be both exciting and sad. While we are beginning a new chapter, we are also having to end another. It’s been a long road for me to get here, but on June 12, 2022, I finally graduated from Mt. Ararat High School.

For the first time, Mt. Ararat hosted a graduation ceremony on the new campus, in the backyard behind the school’s Learning Commons. Although Mt. Ararat held a graduation for the class of 2021, it was at the Topsham Fairgrounds rather than the school, so this year’s graduation was especially exciting.

When planning graduation, the class officers had a strong desire to have it at the school to showcase the new school’s beauty and to revel in school spirit for one last occasion as an entire class. It felt important that our last hurrah be held at the very place we completed our schooling.

In the weeks leading up to graduation, it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel as though the moment we had been planning for four years was actually here. Before I knew it, it was over. The speech I had been hoping to deliver as valedictorian since freshman year was done. How did it go by so quickly? It’s moments like these when we realize just how quickly life goes by. I know it’s cliche, but it truly feels like just yesterday I was attending my first day of kindergarten.

It’s difficult growing up in the same place for your entire life, because when the moment comes to leave, it feels like there’s an entire unknown world out there — and there is. I, for one, am excited to explore it, but I am also extremely fearful. I can’t imagine living in a place where I don’t know everyone around me or have some connection to practically everyone I meet. There is a comfort in growing up in a close-knit community like Harpswell and I have greatly appreciated growing up here. I will truly miss it when I leave for college in New York state next year.

For all seniors this year, and every year, graduation was the first step into the rest of our lives. I look forward to what the future holds for each and every one of us. And to those of you who have graduated from high school or are yet to graduate, life goes by very fast, so enjoy every second of it.

Lucy Nelson is a Harpswell native and one of eight valedictorians of the Mt. Ararat High School Class of 2022. She plans to attend Cornell University in the fall.