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College is nothing George can't handle

After all that, this was it.

My classmates and I had just graduated, had just crossed the gymnasium stage into a new chapter of life. We will eventually many forget many of the kids we went to high school with, as we grow older and start living our futures in new, separate worlds.

However, nothing can change the fact that we were together in this, our moment of glory and accomplishment.

The diploma was nice (and might even be helpful down the road), but the real reward would not come until several hours after the ceremony.

Though I am usually wary of school-sponsored parties designed to keep kids away from the real ones, I understood Grad Bash -- starting right after graduation until 4:30 the next morning -- is a good time. More than that, though, I heard rumors that there were excellent prizes to be had. Some of them, I gathered, were worth more than the $25 admission fee.

The diploma was symbolic, but the Grad Bash prizes would be the first tangible reward for graduating from high school. These were not pieces of paper with my name and the principal's signature, condemned to sit forever in a keepsakes box.

We would use this stuff, would take it to our dorms for convenience in our new lives of independence and responsibility. When there is not enough time (or will) to head to the cafeteria, wouldn't it be nice to pull some food out of a stainless steel, 4.3 cubic inch fridge? If I get a roommate who values his privacy or likes to have a lot of girls over, I could just fold out my handy, brand-new futon in the dorm hallway and call it comfortable.

As I scanned the list at 2:30 in the morning, which seemed to include a prize for every grad, I felt my tired mind perk up in anticipation. At last, I could assure myself that I had made the right choice in Grad Bash. There might be goings on elsewhere, but they weren't giving away valuable prizes. Grad Bash was not just a hollow night of partying, I decided. It was a lasting decision.

An entirely new set of thoughts filled my mind when I found out just what I won: a George Foreman Super Champ Value Grill.

There was some anti-climax in my high school career ending like this, me walking out of a mostly-empty school with a George Foreman Grill tucked under my arm, so tired I could hardly walk straight. This was my last farewell to Detroit Lakes High School, my Grand Exit, and it wasn't happening in style.

I was leaving feeling just as ridiculous as I had when I arrived three years ago, a 10th-grader wearing khakis and a turtleneck sweater, feeling like a pawn in a game of checkers.

Maybe I'll grill a few burgers on my George Foreman. It might even make me the most popular guy on my floor, provided my dorm-mates like their skins crunchy and their insides moist and tender.

Or if I can't find room in my dorm, I'll give my grill to someone for Christmas or a birthday or something, sending it to orbit in the cycle of gifting and re-gifting until someone drops it on the tile.

After all, my George Foreman grill has already served its purpose by humbling me to the level of a freshman, which is exactly what I will be again come September. I'll be in a whole new place amongst people I won't recognize.

I'll have to overcome shyness again, and find my way around another (much bigger) campus. I'll be running away from a whole new batch of girls who don't interest me, and chasing a new group of ones who do.

I'm back to Square One. It's a daunting thought. I can only hope that the people I meet the second time around will prove tender on the inside, that the greasy, unwanted things will drip away to where they won't be clogging me up, and that I will develop a crust to seal in the things I consider to be important and true and keep me from drying up inside.

With George Foreman on my side, how can I fail?

Nathan Kitzmann graduated from Detroit Lakes High School.