Sidney High senior series: Being a kid again

By Anika Arcikauskas

The passage of time is an utterly strange and unusual concept. One day, we are toddling around spouting nonsense as we try to make words out of the sounds that surround us, and within a few years, we are full fledged beings with thoughts and opinions and feelings. When we are young, we yearn for nothing more than to be an adult with privileges and money, but when we become these adults we want nothing more than to be young once again. This is a paradox of life.

On May 3, I had the opportunity to visit my elementary school dressed in my yellow graduation cap and gown. My English teacher organizes this as a way for the young students of Sidney City Schools to have a tangible vision of what they will eventually become. I happily signed my name under the elementary school I had attended for kindergarten through third grade, but I had no idea how the visit would impact me.

Before I knew it, I stood at the entrance of Emerson Elementary with some of my classmates, greeting the young kindergarteners and first graders and offering them high-fives as they made their journey over the sidewalk that I once trekked upon. Eventually, my classmates and I were invited inside for the students and staff morning meeting.

I found myself in the same gym in which, over a decade ago, we flew around on colorful plastic scooters and invented new games to play — as if we hadn’t played five different ones already. I remembered where I sat during lunch, and how slightly annoyed I was by the fact that we all had assigned spots at our tables. I once again stood in a room full of kindergarteners and first graders, but now I was one of the high schoolers that I had looked up to when I was the age of the children surrounding me.

I was finally wearing the cap and gown I had for so long wondered about, and now these kids peered upon my classmates and I with the same astonishment that lingered in the room from many years ago. Suddenly, one of the teachers clapped her hands and the room broke out in song. “Emerson, Emerson, E-M-E-R-S-O-N”, the kids sang. I began to sing along to a song I had so long forgotten until that very moment. As I hastily tried to recall the words, I realized I had teared up a little. I am a senior in high school and yet the words to a song I hadn’t sung since I was five years old returned to me so effortlessly.

Time moves entirely too quickly for my liking. At the beginning of my year, I was so quick to say, “I’m so ready to graduate”, but now with that day finally approaching, am I ready? I will soon be dressed in my yellow graduation cap and gown again, surrounded by the classmates that I grew up with. Despite me being a “big kid,” I still see hints of the little girl I once was. I still remember my favorite shirt that said “Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn, then always be a unicorn.” I often paired it with a pair of neon green cheetah print shorts from Justice and a colorful headband, most likely with a bow.

I remember how much I loved when my mom did my hair, or how much I enjoyed when my dad would lift me off my feet and spin me around. I remember how much I cared for my Monster High dolls and how I collected plushies like it was my life’s mission. Now, my neon wardrobe has matured to plain tones, filled with vintage jeans and comfortable crewnecks. I insist on doing my own hair unless my mom begs me to do it for formal events like prom and homecoming. I am entirely too tall for my dad to throw me skyward like he once did. I gave my Monster High dolls to another girl who would take just as good care of them, and after all of this, I thought I had grown up.

When I enter my bedroom though, it appears the little girl I once was had never left. The walls are still painted a shade of peach pink, and an army of stuffed animals still line my bed. I still sleep with so many blankets and pillows that you aren’t sure if there’s even a bed under all of it. There’s still my Harry Potter book collection sitting upon my shelf alongside a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

With all of these souvenirs of moments in my life, I remember that that little girl has never left me. She emerges to enjoy a good laugh, the kind where your stomach hurts and your eyes tear up and your face turns all red. She watches intently when her old favorite shows such as Pinky Dinky Doo or Blues Clues appear on television, and sometimes even sits to watch the full episode. She encourages me to spend all my money on Lego sets every time I pass the toy aisle at Walmart. Finally, she emerged in that moment in that elementary school gym to hold my hand and help me remember the words to the song I had once thought I would never sing again.

On the day of graduation, May 18, I hope that each and every one of my classmates realizes that they aren’t the only ones walking across the field and receiving their diploma. They carry each and every version of themselves along with them. This is growth. When our names are called at graduation the tiny kindergartener self, the awkward middle schooler, and even the excited freshman with their shiny new backpack and expectations for the next four years will all be there to flip their tassel and graduate as the class of 2024.

Anika Arcikauskas is the daughter of Melisa and Nerijus Arcikauskas. After high school, she plans to attend Ohio University and major in Dance Performance and Choreography. This summer she is looking forward to performing in shows with the Historic Sidney Theater and volunteering at Lithuanian Heritage Camp, Dainava.