Last firsts & other milestones

In the spirit of back-to-school, I began reminiscing my own "first day of school" memories. You know... The intentionally selected outfit for first impressions (that was most likely laid out the night before), the extra-perky wake-up to the alarm in the morning (that wears off after the first day), the lunch bagged up on the counter, the fresh notebooks packed in the new backpack, the posed photo in front of the house with my sisters before we departed, the "I missed you all summer!" hugs to friends, the awkward "where do I sit at lunch" feeling and the "what if I can't find my classroom" fears. And the first day of my senior year? I had similar memories, but with added confidence and the words "the last" in front of everything. "The last time I walk these crowded halls," "the last homecoming," "the last time I see my teachers," and so on. 

Yesterday was the first day of the last year of high school for the seniors at Longleaf School of the Arts in downtown Raleigh. Longleaf is a charter high school that provides students and parents with the unique partnering of a college preparatory curriculum with a fine arts focus. This year, they will graduate their second senior class ever—40 students who have become a tight-knit group of friends. On their first day, they were greeted with red carpet treatment by their teachers and families, followed by a breakfast. It was my pleasure to be one of the "paparazzi" photographers helping to commemorate their "last first day of high school."

I loved capturing the moments for them—moments that will be special memories after the passing of time. I enjoyed seeing the embracing of friends and the sweet "I'm so proud of you" parent expressions. As they mingled with one another, they chatted in front of posters they each had, smiling over childhood photos of past milestones and memories that were important to them. One father I met who was standing with his daughter pointed at her very first "first day of school" picture and then added, "and now here you are, all grown up, on your last first day of school!" It's a special privilege to be able to see what the past looked like through photographs—both to celebrate it and to dream about the future. I believe that milestones make us who are and shape who we will become.

Congratulations, Longleaf Class of 2017—based on what I experienced yesterday, your futures sure are bright. Best of luck and enjoy "the last" of everything this year!