Before I Graduate High School (This I Believe)

“No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.”

–  Althea Gibson

 

I picked that quote in particular because I remember pretty clearly the time when I first heard it. It was back in September 2011, when all the new eleventh graders of my high school had a meeting in the auditorium. Some spokesperson from the yearbook company came in and tried to convince us to buy class rings. He gave us a bunch of generic stuff about how important high school is, and how graduating high school is such a huge accomplishment, and how lots of people helped us along the way.

I agree with all of that. I couldn’t have gotten through high school without the help of many different people, all with various contributions. Whether it was moral support, help with studies, pushing me to take insanely hard classes because I could handle them (hi, Mom and Dad), or just being there for me.

I’ll go into that for a second. But I graduate high school in approximately five hours, and right now—in my last few hours as a high schooler—I want to address the obvious factor playing at my emotions right now: the nostalgia.

Have you ever had something really incredible happen to you, and it’s so unexpected that you don’t even freak out, because your mind isn’t letting you register that it just happened? That’s what graduation is like whenever I think about it, at least right now. I’m not bouncing up and down with excitement like I was for Prom; nor am I being slammed with sadness like I was on my last day of classes.

Let’s be blunt here: getting a high school diploma isn’t that big of a deal for me. I know some kids really work for it, and earn it through hours of studying and hard work and dedication, and I respect those kids immensely. But let’s look at me personally, just for a second.

Yes, I had a lot of homework, and yes, I worked my butt off these past four years. But If I’d really wanted, I could’ve taken all the basic requirements Freshman year, filled my class spaces with free periods, and had mounds of free time. I don’t consider it an accomplishment that I chose to cram my schedule with college level classes. Insane, maybe, but not a huge accomplishment.

Don’t get me wrong, graduating high school is a huge accomplishment for me (and everyone). But not because of the diploma. That part was easy for me. The hard part was getting through the leap from a tiny private middle school to a large public high school. Or finding the right people to be friends with. Or staying away from the wrong people to be friends with. High school is so complicated, and for a lot of teenagers—myself included—academics are the least of our struggles.

The real struggle is finding yourself and making sure you don’t lose it along the way. And after four years, I’m proud to say I did that. I’ll direct your attention to exhibit A, a post I put on Facebook recently.

fbpost

Now THAT, I am proud of. And that’s what I’ll be celebrating tonight.

I think it’s appropriate to close this post with the last high school essay I ever wrote. My English teacher showed us a thing online called “This I Believe,” started in the 1950’s, where random people—some famous, some not, some old, some young, etc.—post a short essay online about their beliefs. My last assignment in English was to write such an essay, and I think it ties in nicely here.

This I Believe

May 18, 2013 

When I first started high school, I was pretty scared about making friends. After all, I’d come from a private school where my graduating class was thirty-two kids. Then I entered a school with a class of 464, and I didn’t know anyone. But, in my years at my high school, I’ve made some irreplaceable friends, both in my classes and outside of school. It’s my belief that friends are everything in life, and whatever accomplishments you make are chiefly because of them.

I might be talkative and outgoing now, but I wasn’t back when I turned fourteen. The person who really got me to talk and express myself more was a girl I met on the first day of high school in English class. She and I have become incredibly close since then, and I’m sure one significant reason for that is because I feel like I can say pretty much anything to her. She was the first person to really listen when I talked. Also, she happens to be my girlfriend now, which is amazing.

I know that finding your voice in high school doesn’t seem like a remarkable accomplishment, but to a teenager, believe me, it is. I made an amazing group of friends in high school, and their support is connected in some way to every achievement I’ve made.

Whether it’s encouraging me to do my Eagle Scout project or us studying together for finals, my friends have been there for almost everything. My point so far, I guess, is that my friends helped me get through the major chunks of high school. And the fact that I got through those is one of my most notable accomplishments to date.

My proudest one, though, is more directly connected to the help of friends, which is why I saved it for last. Anyone who knows me—most likely, anyone reading this—knows that my favorite thing in the world to do is write. I started working on a novel at the end of eighth grade. But, I didn’t have anything solid until I opened up a bit more socially, which I couldn’t have done without the girl I mentioned above. Then one of my close friends read it, told me how good it was, and edited it into oblivion. She helped me destroy my adverbs, which I’ll never forget. And a third friend, who read the entire thing in one night, gave me something invaluable: a vote of confidence in it.

And my best friend helped me turn the draft into an actual manuscript, with a tangible story line and polished characters. He made several suggestions that skyrocketed the plot, and his friend helped me polish my query letter for it. Together, the three of us went through the final manuscript line by line out loud. [Finally, my Ideal Readers revealed]

I haven’t lived that long, but I’d like to think I’ve accomplished a few noteworthy things. I’ve survived high school, earned my Eagle Scout award, made highest honors, met a lot of amazing people, finished a book, and had the time of my life while doing all of those. My friends are the reason behind all of this, and even if I don’t owe them my life, I owe them everything I have worth living for.

I don’t know where I’ll go from here. Part of me hopes I’ll meet people in college who are even more incredible. But a much bigger part of me knows I won’t.

So yeah, I think that essay is about all I need to say before I leave high school. In the end, it’s not about how fast or slow time passes, or the good memories, or the fun dances, or the breathtaking moments, or the awesome parties, or the unforgettable school trips, or getting through tough classes or accomplishing everything you could have ever hoped for.

It’s about the people who make all of those possible. Family and friends, whether mentioned in the essay or not (because believe me, even if I didn’t mention you and you’ve helped me, I remember). It’s about the people who shape your life in the best way and who deserve all of thanks you could ever wish on them.

So thank you.

Movie Review: 17 Again

Ned [on a date]: “Look, okay, I don’t know how to act…normal. I’m not smooth; I’m just trying to impress you. I’m a dork. I’m the kind of guy who spends ten grand on Gandalf the Grey’s quarterstaff.”

Jane: “Yes…that does make you a dork. Especially since Gandalf the Grey was only in Fellowship. He returns in Two Towers as Gandalf the WHITE.”

 

17 Again PosterUnlike most of my movie reviews, I actually do have a point for writing this one so late (and by so late, I mean four years so late, because that’s how long ago this came out).

Rewind for a second back to August 27, 2009. That was my second day of high school, and it was one of my worst ones. We got lockers that day and I was almost late for the bus home because I couldn’t figure out how to open mine. That night, I did my new bits of homework and decided to watch a DVD hold that had just come in at the library.

17 Again is one of those movies I expected to watch just to pass the time. But, as it turned out, I loved it. I’ll explain why in a minute. At the end of the year, I watched it again. Now, at the start and end of every school year, I sit down and watch this movie. It’s become grounded in my traditions. And, since it’s the end of my last year of high school, I decided it was finally time to share my overdue thoughts on this movie, which I would recommend everyone watch before they start high school (kind of a makeshift companion to Twisted, the book I think everyone should read before starting high school).

For anyone not familiar with the premise of this movie: When Mike O’Donnell was seventeen, his girlfriend got pregnant, and he gave up his life to marry her. Now he’s forty, his wife is divorcing him, and his kids want nothing to do with him. But, when he gets the chance to go back to being seventeen, he takes it. He’s young again whereas everyone else stayed in the present, so now he has to go to school with his kids to help them with their social problems and somehow win back his forty-year old wife.

Kind of a weird concept, I know.  When I heard “17 Again,” I assumed he would actually be going back in time. But, the movie works so much better like this.

What I loved about it: primarily, Mike’s rich best friend, Ned. If I had to pick a character who I am likely to become someday, that would be Ned. The guy has a house full of medieval nerd weapons, sleeps in a Landspeeder bed, and—in the funniest part of the movie—attacks the seventeen year old Mike with his Lightsaber collection when he thinks younger Mike is an intruder.

I also liked how the movie was funny without being crude or vulgar, like most comedies these days are. Picture the guy version of Mean Girls, minus the plethora of quotable lines. There’s only a moderate level of those in this one. But, it’s quite a bit more touching in my opinion, and in any case it’s one of those comedies that’s actually based around emotion rather than just existing to be funny (which, don’t get me wrong, I like the just-to-be-funny ones, too).

I say that anyone going into high school should watch this movie for a few reasons. For one, I watched it going in, and it gave me some kind of ego/confidence boost that’s hard to explain. Making light of a scary situation (the first day of high school) is something I really needed. Second, this movie is legitimately funny. You won’t be rolling around laughing, but in my opinion, you’ll be glad you watched it.

In Conclusion: There are a lot of high school movies out there, but this is one of the few that mixes humor and heart in just the right way.

Rate: 7 out of 10.

In Limbo: Post-High School Post

“You’re gonna miss this; you’re gonna want this back

You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast

These are some good times, so take a good look around

You may not know it now…but you’re gonna miss this.”

–  Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”

 

To start off, I’m sorry for not posting on Tuesday as promised. I held off for a few reasons.

One, I was pretty wiped out after my last day of high school ever. It was a draining day—academically and emotionally, in equal parts—and I didn’t have the energy to blog about it. And two, I realized I’ve never written an article after the last day of a grade, only before. I’m kind of a person of tradition.

That being said, my last day of high school was everything I expected it to be. In some classes, like Calc and Global, we just chatted about summer. In some like Psych and Biology we just watched movies. And in some like English and Foundations of Technology we actually did work, though I use the phrase “did work” loosely, considering none of us actually attempted the assignment. I personally just drew hand turkeys on my worksheet about communications technology.

The sadness hit a few times throughout the day. Once when my former Chemistry teacher, who inspired me to major in Chemistry in college, gave me a card she’d made and printed out herself. It told me to “stay smart and funny” and “don’t forget to mention your teacher in your acceptance speech for ‘greatest chemist ever’ award.”

Another time I was sad, believe it or not, was after Foundations of Tech was over. Yes, I hated that class, but I had two really great friends in it who helped me survive the year. Neither of them are Seniors, so after my last day in the building, I probably wouldn’t see them again.

The water works really hit, though, when I said goodbye at the end of the day to my favorite teacher of high school. She’d been my English teacher in 9th and 11th grade, but she’d helped me in countless ways for all four years. Like the time in tenth grade when she let my friends and I eat lunch in her room (for the year) because she’d heard us complaining about the noise in the cafeteria. Or the time she got me a new locker assignment because my old one was in a really inconvenient spot. Or the time she wrote my college recommendation letter and referenced specific essays I wrote years ago. Or the time she told jokes on the first day of Freshman year to relax us, or rapped for us on the last day of every school year, or single-handedly organized a class trip to New York.

I could go on.

I found my former teacher in the school library, already crying from saying goodbye to a few of us. The first thing I did was ask her something completely random.

“Will you sign my yearbook?”

She wrote:

Do amazing things and be the amazing person that you are. Follow your love of writing and embrace your talents. Lots of love and well wishes.

I was determined not to cry, so I started off in a steady voice, “Um, you know, on the first day of high school, I thought you might be the best teacher I’ve ever had. And now that it’s over…” That was when I lost it, and I was crying pretty hard as I said, “I just wanted to tell you I was right.”

The goodbye went on for a bit. When it was finally time to go, I hugged her. Right before we let go, she said quietly so only I could hear, “You’re going to do such amazing things.”

The rest of the day was kind of a blur. My friends and I drove to the local wharf for ice cream afterwards. Then I got home and tried to take in the fact that I was done with high school forever.

Yesterday was just an awards ceremony, then I got home and cleaned my whole room like I hadn’t done in years. Today: class picnic. It was great, and tons of fun, albeit a little cloudy. Tomorrow is Grad practice, with Graduation this coming Wednesday.

For now, though—as one of my friends pointed out—we’re in limbo. We aren’t Seniors anymore, but we aren’t graduates, either. We’re just teenagers. Really, really emotional-yet-crazy-excited teenagers.

For now, that’s enough.

The Rush (My Last Night as a High Schooler)

“Our lives are made in these small hours

These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate

Time falls away, but these small hours,

These small hours…still remain”

–  Rob Thomas, “Little Wonders”

 

In May of my Freshman year, my History teacher told me something I remember almost word for word: “Guys, today is the last day of classes for the Seniors. You’re going to see a lot of them walking through the hall just looking around, or else staring at the floor. It’s a huge thing to take in, leaving high school after four years. Either you look around to remember everything or you try not to.”

I didn’t give it much thought; why should I? I still had three years left there. Except now, I don’t. I have hours. And even though that day in History class feels like yesterday, it wasn’t yesterday. It was three years ago.

What am I supposed to say here? I’ve been writing articles since the start of 11th grade, but I can remember exactly what it was like sitting in this same spot at this same desk, typing an article of my thoughts in some attempt to immortalize the moment. Will today feel like ‘just yesterday’ when I’m a sophomore in college? God, I hope not.

The biggest thing here is that this doesn’t feel like the end at all. I want so, so badly to make my brain and heart understand that tomorrow is the last time I’ll ever see some of the underclassmen at my school, the last time I’ll get the chance to talk to teachers before they forget me. Starting Wednesday, Seniors won’t be allowed back in the building. When is the next time I’ll walk through the hallways? What will it feel like?

I’m sorry if around half of this post is just questions or ramblings, but it’s because I’m scared. Not of tomorrow; if anything, I’m excited for tomorrow. And for the class picnic, and for Graduation, and for trips with friends and parties.

I’m scared of all that to be over.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for college. But high school is the kind of thing that smothers you—in both good and bad ways—taking up every ounce of your life. The hallways become a part of you, the layout of everything is drilled into your brain, and while you hate all of it at first, you gradually accept it. I’ve got that covered. It’s the next part that I don’t want to do:

Let go.

I don’t feel ready to leave. I know I am ready, it just doesn’t feel like it. I think that’s how it is with most things: you get ready to leave something behind. When you finally have to, you say, “I just want a little more time,” even though you know you’re ready. Then you look back a couple years later and realize that even if you had a little more time, you would still say the same thing. So I guess it all works out no matter what.

Okay, I’m rambling again. Reel it in.

I guess I should try to summarize this year of high school, if that’s even possible. The problem is that it was cookie-cutter perfect for me: I started with amazing friends, one best friend I had a crush on, a book that was going nowhere, plans for a blog, and hope for a great year. Now I’m ending with even closer ties to my friends, my crush who is now my perfect girlfriend, a mildly successful blog; and a book that I believe deep down is ready to be published, thanks to the help of a stranger who became my friend and a friend who became my best friend. What did I do to deserve such a perfect life, seriously?

Tonight I repeated my end-of-year traditions. I watched the Legend of the Seeker Season One finale, and believe it or not, that was when I started to cry a little. Not because of anything that has to do with high school. Rather, because I blinked and saw tiny fourteen year old me sitting on the couch, watching this episode the night before his first day of high school. He was scared, and had no clue in the world what it was going to be like. Or what people he would meet. Or how they would change his life. But most of all, he couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to look back at high school when it’s all finished.

Okay, hang on.

It’s amazing how much time I spent wanting to get out of high school, only to realize how scary it really is to leave. Of course I’ll visit, but teachers will move on. People will move on. When I walk through the halls from here on out, it’ll be “just like I did” rather than “just like I do.”

So I guess when I walk through them tomorrow, I’ll be one of the people my teacher mentioned who tries to look around. I don’t know how hard the goodbyes will be. They’re not so much to the people (who I’ll still see these next few weeks) as it will be to the classrooms, and teachers, and everyone. And to little things like opening lockers, getting hall passes or writing blog posts at the end of every year.

Okay. I have to start saying goodbye now. Starting with this tradition. After this, no more writing posts at the end of a high school grade. This is the first thing I’ll let go of.

Okay then. Goodbye.

Way Too Fast (The Night before My First Day of Senior Year)

“Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today; and I’ll always remember it.”

–  David Nicholls

 

I wrote this on my last night of this past summer. Hopefully my writing has improved since then, but I still like this one.

 

August 21, 2012

I know for a fact that I’m going to be using the phrase “it went by too fast” more than a handful of times over the next year, so I’ll try and be conservative about it now. But even if I was only allowed three uses, I would spend one on this past summer.

This summer was my second favorite (first is 2009) for several reasons. First of all, I was PRODUCTIVE…I managed to finish all of my homework by July—a long-term goal of mine—and, later, two books. I traveled to Virginia for an amazing summer camp (a week of hiking), took a road trip to see my cousins who are now awesome, and got my driver’s license. The list continues, but those are the big ones.

Also: I had fun. While I didn’t hang out with my friends quite as much as I would’ve liked, we still saw some great movies, hung out and talked a decent amount, and snapped some great pictures involving a Red Robin milkshake, scotch tape with a mailbox, and a “No Trespassing” sign with three very good-looking trespassers in front of it.

The two highlights were, hands down, summer camp and my family trip. I won’t get into those, but they gave me some more than incredible pictures that I won’t be forgetting about or letting go any time soon.

So…what’s my point?

I don’t know. I guess it’s that I’ve done too much for this to have only been two and a half months. But in any case, I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, and I’m optimistic about the ones I’ll get in the future. A year ago, I couldn’t have predicted what 11th grade would bring, and back in June I couldn’t have guessed how amazing summer would be. So for now, that’s enough to let me say goodbye. Because I’m bursting with hope about Senior year of high school.

I’m all prepared for it, too. My backpack is packed, just as it was last year, and I went clothes shopping at JC Penny just like last year (though admittedly this time I drove myself, and my sister helped me pick out all the shirts I bought, so they might actually look good this year).

So…what else?

Tomorrow is the last time I’ll ever have a “first day of school.” That fact scared the bejesus out of me a couple months ago, but at this point I’ve gotten so immersed in that terrifying idea that I don’t think my brain is going to let me comprehend it until it’s long gone. My friends on Facebook have said similar things, and all I can be sure of is that everything will work out. It has so far.

Tonight, just to close off the summer, I got back from shirt shopping and popped in the finale of Legend of the Seeker, just like the night before my first day of high school. And like in previous years, I drank a big glass of root beer and toasted myself.

At the beginning of last year, I said “Here’s to right now.” And at the end of last year, I said, “Here’s to dragging it out.” Well, I’m running out of toasts, but I had one more tonight.

As the episode started, I thought to myself:

So. Tomorrow it happens.

To making it worth it.

I realized then that I could never come back to this moment. But maybe that was okay, because that made it all the more special. Then I drank as I blinked back tears and smiled.

Thank you to all of my friends and everyone who makes life worth living. To making it worth it.

To Senior year.

Here’s to 11th Grade: Year in Review

“One day, you’ll be just a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.”

–  Unknown

 

I said I’d post this tomorrow night (Saturday), but seeing as I’ll be away from my internet at that time, I have to post it today. I wrote this the night before my last day of 11th grade.

 

June 7, 2012

June has always been my favorite part of the year, and it’s still hard to accept that I’m in the middle of my favorite month right now.

But what’s even stranger to me is that tomorrow is the last time I’ll go to my favorite teacher’s room, that I’ll have to speak Spanish or get to hear my Gov teacher tell an awesome story. It’s also the last time I’ll ever eat cafeteria food or be with my unforgettable AP Chemistry friends.

The phrase ‘it feels like yesterday’ is overused in our society, but I can only think of a handful of situations where it’s more appropriate than right now. I repeated my start- and end-of-school-year habits tonight, including watching the “Legend of the Seeker” Season finale and working on my prequel trilogy. I typed the first sentence of that nine months ago, on my last day of summer, and tonight, I typed the last sentence of the third and final book.

And in repeating all these, I noticed something: I was just doing this. Three dances, five holidays, three AP Tests, two SAT’s, thirty-six weeks and two semesters ago, I was doing this. And I was about to enter 11th grade. I was ready then…I’m sure NOT ready now. Not in any way, shape or form. I don’t feel like a Senior; I’m not ready to be a Senior.

But it’s going to happen as it always does, so I’d just like to think of all the good things that happened this year.

It kicked off with an earthquake and a hurricane, which was nice, but the real opener to the intensity was a birthday party I went to in October 2011, which had enough dancing to make me tired for the next week. Which was a shame, because that next week happened to be Spirit Week.

From there was an awesome Homecoming, Thanksgiving break, a great Christmas party, an incredible New Year’s celebration at my best friend’s house, and so on.

Then there was the really great stuff: Prom, post-AP testing activities, and finally this past week.

I would go on about how fast the time’s gone, but I want to wait to say that. Because right now I’m only mildly mind-blown, and I know in a few months (which feel like days), I’ll be freaking out even more. Then I can say just how scarily fast this all is blowing me by.

For now, then, here’s to summer, and hoping it’ll drag out as much as school did.

To dragging it out, and an amazing last day of not being a Senior.

To anyone reading this, wish me luck for the summer. It’s been an amazing year.

Here’s To Right Now (As I Start 11th Grade)

“Time is not meant to be grasped and hoarded, but rather wrung dry of all its juices then let go.”

–  Ean for Truddi Chase

 

The end of high school is starting to hit me. Today I’ll ride the bus for the last time (I get to drive Monday and Tuesday), and my grades close out this afternoon. You may have noticed, I’ve put a countdown on the side panel indicating how much time I have left in this place.

As promised, from now until Tuesday I’ll be posting articles I wrote a while back at the start and end of each school year. The first time I wrote one of these was at the beginning of Junior year, the night before my first day back to school.

Hope you enjoy it, and please forgive the sub-par writing (I wrote this almost two years ago and didn’t change a word in the re-post).

 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Today was an eventful last day of summer, between the earthquake and my first day as an upperclassmen nearly within reach.

School. Earthquake. Blah.

I’m kind of wishing I had a Deviantart or some sort of blog right now…not only because all of my friends have one, but because I’m starting to wish people would actually, you know, READ these kinds of articles.

But anyway. Who needs them? I’ll just write anyway!

Just kidding. Hope somebody reads this.

[I swear, that’s what I wrote back then, word for word.]

Anyway. Today I was sitting, typing out the plots to a trilogy of books I had in mind (ready to start it!) when I felt a shaking under my chair.

I didn’t think much of it, but still got up to go talk to my mom, who was sitting in the living room.

“Hey mom, did you feel any—”

THUDTHUDTHUDTHUD.

Everything started shaking violently.

I’ve never, ever been in an earthquake, and it was pretty freaking scary. I remember whispering, “Oh, my God…” and looking around as the whole house shook around me. My mom, sister and I all dove into the bathroom, not knowing what was happening.

Because here’s the thing: If we lived in California, we would’ve been a lot calmer. But we don’t get earthquakes like that here on the East coast…so we didn’t even know if that’s what it was. It was just unreal to this area.

So, on a completely different subject:

Tonight is the last night—EVER—of Summer 2011.

Wow.

My book bag is packed, and my schedule is printed. Nothing left to do but write and sleep.

In truth, I really like the first day of school…it’s just the other 179 that are the problem. And when I think about it…this will be my second-to-last ‘first day of school’ ever. EVER.

Wow.

 

Today I just put my head in my hands and said to no one: “It’s been a good summer, hasn’t it?”

Yeah. It has.

I finished quite a few manuscripts…I’d say that’s my biggest lasting accomplishment. I also hung out with my friends a lot, had my Eagle Scout Ceremony, and got that stupid homework done. Next year, I want to finish it before July.

I did all my usual “end of summer” traditions tonight. I got some new shirts at JC Penny (classy, I know), watched the Season One Finale of Legend of the Seeker, and drank a big glass of root beer. Same routine I’ve been doing at the end of summer since high school started.

Today I told myself, here’s to the past. Because I’m one of those people who always lives in the past…who wishes they could re-live their eighth grade year a few times, see all the middle school friends who they haven’t talked to for almost a year now.

But tonight, I decided something.

Wishing for the past won’t make it happen. All I can do is enjoy each moment as it comes. And so, tonight, I amended my phrase.

Here’s to right now.

 

I’ll try and write again soon, though I might get swamped with work. Who knows?

So, if anyone ever reads this, cool. Just live, laugh, etc…and wish me luck in eleventh grade.