Tonight, I went to senior prom

Fourteen years ago, I went to the Lincoln High School senior prom. Tonight, I went back.

Then, it was the El Riad Shrine Mosque. Then, I was dressed in a black tux with a blue pocket square, with my date and then-girlfriend wearing a matching blue dress. My friends were there. My future wife was there. And though I’ve never been much of a dancer or public performer, I gave in. I loosened up. I had fun.

Tonight, it was also The El Riad Shrine Mosque. Tonight, I was dressed in a black vest, weighed down by a camera and flash, sweating as much as I did in that tux but for a COMPLETELY different reason this time.

I didn’t participate. I only took pictures. And I had a blast.

I had forgotten in the past 14 years just how fresh faced we were, and what’s amazing is that these kids are no different. Senior prom is the last step before graduation. It’s the last stand for teenage butterflies, our queasiness shifting from girls and boys to “life after high school,” our friends becoming memories and our relationships becoming real.

Everyone smiled. Everyone danced. Everyone sang. The DJ would drop another song, and the crowd would rise as one. With a kind of solidarity I know we didn’t have, they jumped and moved and acted in one movement. As a cohesive unit. Everyone, from the uneasy loners to the homecoming queen.

This wasn’t a class. This was a family. I’ll be honest: I didn’t think things like that happened in high school.

A lot has changed in the past 14 years. The music has changed. The trends have changed. My customs are no longer relevant. But there was still the same optimism and puppy love and excitement and bravery on that dance floor tonight. And a little grinding, yes. But mostly excitement and bravery.

Fourteen years ago, I went to my senior prom. I remember it for looking across the dance floor and falling in love with Kerrie. But it was also when I gave every last ounce I had, because it wasn’t long until graduation and who knew when we’d see each other again after that.

Tonight, they played Lady Gaga. The crowd roared in approval. The student body jumped in unison, their fists pumping the air as if they were forming a mosh pit at an Earth Crisis concert.

Then, goosebumps. Not from nostalgia, but from pride.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 1st, 2011