A Tribute to My Best Friend

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”

– Joseph Campbell

 

I think the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn growing up is that life has way too many goodbyes.

I blogged about this considerably back in my senior year of high school as I transitioned to a new chapter in my life. I was expecting that one. It still hurt when it happened, but I recognized it had to happen. The difference now is, I’m realizing that kind of transition isn’t unique to just the end of high school. Life is a steady flow of new faces and saying goodbye to old ones. And this past December, I said goodbye to one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

To clarify, you can relax; he isn’t dead or anything. But we did have to say goodbye, and I don’t expect we’ll see each other again. So, with this school year coming to a close, I’m concluding that chapter of my life the only way I know how: to write a tributary post.

Let’s get cracking.

I met my best friend in January 2015; my sophomore year of college. We were in the same math class together, and I saw this quiet freshman-looking type who wasn’t really interacting with anyone. So I switched on my social mode and made small talk. We got along well and became friendly towards each other. He was pretty reserved, so my attempts to socialize outside of class weren’t very productive at first. He was perfectly fine chatting during math, but not having Chick-Fil-A at the University Center after class.

Things might’ve stayed put, but I got this feeling in my gut that I can’t quite explain—have you ever met a person and you just get this instinct that you two were meant to be a part of each others’ lives? Well, something told me this guy and I were meant to be a part of each others’. And so, I kept asking to hang out. And eventually, we got Chick-Fil-A at the University Center after class.

Within a month, we were hanging out on the regular; ordering pizza and marathoning Breaking Bad, or bitching about our math homework, or forming inside jokes. And by April, we were spending evenings staying up until 3AM swapping stories. We talked about the best and worst of our past relationships with girls. We told each other about what we wanted for our own futures.

I think my favorite part of all of this is we both entered each others’ lives at the right time. Each of us was going through our own personal shit when we met, and we sort of helped each other get back on track with everything. We got along. We were best friends. Simple as that.

I know there are a fair number of guys who think the concept of ‘best friends’ is a bit gay. They don’t think two dudes should be important parts of each others’ lives. And yet, my best friend and I were. When I was in real trouble and needed a place to stay, he was the person I called. When he was upset, despite the fact that I was angrier with him than ever before, I still dropped that long enough to say, “Alright look, I’m really pissed at you. But you need someone to talk to, so for tonight, I’m going to stop being pissed long enough to be there for you.”

We had an especially bad argument in September that left us not speaking to each other for several days. And then, we went to a baseball game and spent the whole time talking, getting back to joking around, and it ended up being one of the best hangouts we had. We got really good at working things out.

Because that’s what it’s all about: being there for each other in spite of disagreements or arguments. That’s what best friends do. That’s what family does. And make no mistake, even if it was only for a year, he and I were family.

Did we argue? Sure. It was mostly little stuff, but it was still enough to be mildly irritating now and then. And at the end of the day, we were always able to clear the air with one simple conversation and get back to playing basketball or video games or whatever.

We didn’t always agree on how to hang out, either. I’m a movie fanatic and would’ve been happy watching a different movie every time we chilled; my best friend was more into watching WWE or training for American Ninja Warrior (no joke!) So we compromised. We spent summer 2015 watching a lot of movies and watching a lot of WWE. We also went to a Ninja Gym once, which was one of my favorite days. We showed each other our home towns and even made a midnight run to IHOP (it was a long day).

I don’t want to just make a laundry list of activities or bore you with tedious details, because no amount of description will be sufficient to encapsulate how important my best friend and I were to each other. No matter how many ups and downs we had with girls in our lives, we were always able to meet up, grab Subway and swap stories. “So, you’ll never guess what shit I had to deal with today.” And we’d lightly make fun of each other for it. And it was the best thing.

We didn’t know it at the time, but this one hangout we had in December 2015 would end up being our last.

(I don’t want to get into why he and I had to end our friendship—the short version is, his living circumstances changed a month later and he decided it would be too taxing on us both to keep up the friendship).

That last hangout was Thursday December 17th, and we saw Star Wars Episode VII on its opening day. He didn’t especially want to, but he knew how much it meant to me, and I think it was a fitting end to the friendship. We made a day of it and ended up ordering pizza like normal, watching our favorite TV show like normal, and going to the movies like normal.

I only have one regret: at the end of that long day, he and I said goodbye. We thought it was just for winter break, but it ended up being for good. And during the drive home, I realized, “Damn it—I forgot to tell him thank-you for everything. And that I love him like a brother.” I meant to say it. Because 2015 was our year, start to finish, and it was one of the best of my life.

I accept that this whole thing won’t ever quite be settled in my mind, but I also recognize that this is part of life and people have to deal with this all the time. It’s far too often that the world shoves two people in each others’ lives only to pull them back apart, and you’re left wondering why. I don’t have an answer, but the thing I do know is that my life is forever better for having had my best friend in it. And I wish I could have been half as good of a friend to him as he was to me. At the end of the day, none of this is anything I can change. But I can appreciate it, and I can take the best of it with me as I move forward.

For one last time dude: Godspeed, and thank you for being part of my life when I needed it the most. You will be missed.

Dear Society: Sheltering Teenagers Helps No One (Thoughts from a College Student)

It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”

 –  Nathan Scott

Six months! I would apologize, but this hasn’t even been my longest absence, so I’ll simply repeat my usual promise that I’ll never give up entirely on this blog. It might be a few more months before my next post, but there will always be one.

Today I wanted to discuss what it’s like to grow up as a teenager in today’s society. Why? Because as I approach the hilariously old age of 21, I’m looking back on my teenage years and realizing that, to put it nicely, there are some things seriously wrong with how kids are being raised, both by parents and their school systems.

How, you ask? Well, I should begin by saying I’ve grown up incredibly blessed with a plethora of good fortune. I have two happy and healthy parents who love me endlessly, my family lives comfortably, and I’ve been smart enough to get into college and survive as an engineering major (so far, anyway). A good bulk of teenagers reading this are hopefully lucky in similar senses. So why do I say we’re all getting screwed? Why have I, for years, been so fundamentally unhappy with how I transitioned from childhood to adulthood?

Picture this! Growing up as a teenager twenty or thirty years ago, life was different. Kids got jobs at 16 to maintain their shitty cars. As soon as they could drive, they roamed around and basically came and went from the house. They had to sweat a bit to make ends meet, but by the age of eighteen, they had gotten enough practice living as adults that they were ready to take off the training wheels.

(Or so I hear, anyway. I wasn’t exactly around thirty years ago).

These days—at least with how I was raised—growing up is completely different.

Here’s what inspired this post: today I was sitting in class trying to stay awake when I realized I didn’t have a single idea how to do taxes. TAXES. The only thing you have to do in this world apart from dropping dead.

Rant time: why the hell didn’t any teacher in high school bother to sit down us wide-eyed little 16- and 17-year old selves and say “here’s all the information you need about mortgages and loans and taxes”? Is the point of high school not to prepare kids for the real world? Why is it that I—and every other peer of mine—has reached their twenties without having been taught a single strategy for managing bank accounts or sketching out retirement plans?

BUT THANK THE LORD I KNOW THAT THE MITOCHONDRIA IS THE GODDAMN POWERHOUSE OF THE CELL.

All that being said, I’m not here to rant about being ignorant towards taxes, specifically. One YouTube video can (and will) fix that as soon as I finish this post. Instead, let’s dig deeper.

I earned my driver’s license a few days before senior year and had to wait 42 days before I was allowed to drive. “It’s not you we don’t trust; it’s everyone else.” When I was allowed to drive, it was only a few miles and for short periods of time. I wasn’t allowed to make the commute to my college (which is around 70 miles away) until my junior year at the University, and I also wasn’t allowed to own a car until that point.

And I know what you’re thinking! Hey, why didn’t you just buy your own crappy fixer-upper car with the money you had saved up from your high school job? I would have loved to! Except I wasn’t allowed to have a job in high school. Which, by the way, was uncannily common amongst my other friends as well. Why didn’t I get a job in college? Because I would need a car to get there.

Can you perhaps spot something wrong with this picture? By the time I stepped out of my house to move into my college dorm for the first time, I had still never had a job, never owned nor maintained a vehicle, never had any experience managing finances, and most importantly: I had never been allowed to make my own mistakes.

I’m most certainly not here to criticize how I was raised. I’m thankful every day for my impossibly amazing parents, and I realize that if my biggest problem is them loving me too much, I probably shouldn’t be ranting at all. But I’m going to, because these issues I’m describing are a) much more widespread than my own household, and b) way too important to not talk about.

Our society is screwing teenagers by coddling them. Parents and schools say “oh, we just don’t want you to have to worry about working, or maintaining a car, or being under too much pressure” but that’s the exact stuff that turns kids into adults, man! We have to grow up sometime, and in my opinion, parents and schools of the modern day are shoving fundamental skills aside because, “worry about that when you’re 18.”

In my opinion, when a kid hits 18, they should possess all the life skills needed to be out on their own paying rent, being able to get a job, dealing with crappy cars, and protecting themselves rather than letting others do it.

Now. Do I think it’s a travesty every time a parent sends their kid a care package? Of course not. I love how much my parents and I have stayed in touch and any time they want to help out (such as paying for me filling up the car or sending me pizza money) I’m sincerely grateful. But I wouldn’t blame them in the slightest if they didn’t, because it isn’t their job anymore. And more than anything, I wish I’d been put through the ringer at the age of 16 or 17. I wish I’d been able to own a crappy car that breaks down on me, or had to work at a menial job…hell, I just wish I’d been able to go to a football game without being forced to carry a rain poncho with me.

Because here’s the secret: now, every time I go outside and it looks the slightest bit like rain, I change into my shortest of sleeves and let that glorious downpour soak me to the bone. Why? Because I was never allowed to do that as a kid. At night when it’s freezing out, I’ll sometimes walk around in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Stupid? Yeah. Why do I do it? Because never once was I allowed to be stupid when I was growing up.

Parents—especially the amazing ones, like mine—are so driven to protect their kids from everything. But hardship, and mistakes, and pain…those things shape us to be stronger. And dealing with life experiences (such as jobs and cars) early on can help us teenagers learn how to overcome those challenges for when we’ve truly grown up.

And now here I am—finally filling out my own job applications, driving my own car, managing my own finances—and I couldn’t be happier. But I’ve had to spend a few years playing catch-up, and that was a sincere worry on my shoulders.

In short, to any parents with teenagers: I know how scary it can be letting your kids go, but it has to happen sooner or later. Just be mindful of when they’re really going to become adults, so you can make sure they’re ready to face the world when they step into it.

And high schools? If you’re going to make me sit through a class where I learn how to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks and craft glue, the least you could do is make sure I know what the fuck a FAFSA is.

Life Goes On (2014-2015: Year in Review)

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”

–  George Eliot

 

I hope that what is left of my blogosphere fanbase will be relieved to hear I’m not dead! Though it’s been four long months since my last blog entry—which is by far the most extensive hiatus I’ve taken on this site—I most certainly haven’t given up on my entries here.

That’s how it usually goes, right? Overly ambitious writer kid tries his hand at a blog, cranks out posts for a few months, then burns out and the site fizzles into woeful obscurity. I don’t intend this to be me or the work I’ve built here, but I certainly don’t promise to increase my posting frequency…it has been a busy few months.

Speaking of which! Let’s get to the good stuff.

It’s been two years since I graduated high school. TWO. I’d like to think that the speed with which time passes will become easier to contemplate now that I’m in my twenties, but it hasn’t so far.

For me, this school year has been the most transformative one yet. I didn’t begin it on the most upbeat note…in fact, August of 2014 was perhaps the gloomiest era of my life. This had to do with a lot of things, most of which I’d prefer not to get into here. But I couldn’t wait to get back to college.

Once I did, my friends lifted me up exactly as I thought they would. I launched into a new semester of great memories, challenging-but-exciting new courses, and—most of all—an indescribable feeling of being where I belonged.

The second year of college is an intriguing one. Much like the second year of high school, it’s accompanied by a newfound surge of confidence. The ‘same routine, new year’ type of thing. In my case, that was especially true: I had the same awesome suitemates, in the same dorm room as freshman year, with the same friend group.

But of course, each year has its own challenges. School got, like, hard. (Imagine that!) And my best friend and I started having problems.

You’ve probably read about my best friend from high school. This was the person who was by my side through my entire senior year of high school, that amazing summer after, and even freshman year of college. But of course, going to different schools takes its toll. We started arguing a lot. And we had awesome times to make up for it. And then more arguing. And life went on.

Then something happened in February which I will never forget: I met a super cool dude in my math class. Quiet kid, but I got some feeling (no one can really explain these things) that we’d get along. So I obnoxiously persisted in trying to make conversation until we finally started talking. Then hanging out. Then deciding to be roommates next year.

Having to let my former best friend go was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. And making a new one was one of the most awesome experiences of my life. And now, even as I type, we’re chilling watching TV, trying to wrap our heads around how this school year is at its end.

Don’t get me wrong. My life hasn’t been all full of sweets and roses. Several weeks ago, I was hurt by several friends in a more sharply devastating way than I’d ever experienced in my life. And one of the people involved was said new best friend. For a while, all the people involved hated one another. And we all reconsidered why we’re here. What ‘friendship’ really means. How much someone can apologize for how much they hurt you, and how far forgiveness can reach.

And life goes on.

And now we’re all okay. Certainly we’re more grown up, and stronger, and perhaps a little less wide-eyed than before. (Because yes, it is possible to be naïve even at twenty years old.) Because growing up doesn’t end once you become an adult. We all grow, all the time. We find friends and love them and hurt them and make up and love them again. You make a best friend who becomes your brother, then one day you find yourselves to be strangers, but perhaps even then your story isn’t finished. It’s just on pause for a little bit.

Life goes on. It simply does. No matter how much you’re hurting, or loving, or living. Whether you’re at your worst or on top of the world. People keep going, life moves forward, and in every pain there is a lesson. In every person, there is both good and bad; dark and light; hate and immense love.

That, I think, is what it’s really all about. What growing up means. You become nuanced and discover how everyone else is, too. You get knocked down, dust yourself off and get back up. You lose friends and gain new ones. You hold onto the memories of the previous year and the previous summer and previous people. And life—

Well, you know the rest.

To everyone who has been there for me in this past school year, thank you. And for anyone wondering if life gets better or worse: well, I can’t answer that. But I can tell you that it stays interesting.

Here’s to another interesting, amazing year.

Thoughts from an Introvert

“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.”

–  Criss Jami

Well, I vowed to do at least one post per month this school year, and here we are. Ten minutes until a new month and new year. Nothing like posting at the literal eleventh hour, eh?

I was originally going to make this post a “2014 in Review” type deal, but other than listing many things that happened this year—most of which wouldn’t particularly interest my readers—that wouldn’t be much of a post. Instead, I’d like to take this time to discuss an important topic which I don’t think gets spoken about nearly enough: introversion.

Introversion is officially defined as “the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life.” In other words, someone keeps to themselves. But many people assume this definition stops there. Usually, if we see a person who doesn’t like to socialize quite as much as the next guy, we say something like, “they’re such an introvert.”

I’ve been labeled as this for most of my life, and it’s technically correct. However, I never like telling people, “I’m an introvert” (though I referred to this in the title of this post, for the sake of clarity). I prefer to say, “I have introversion.” Why?

Because saying that someone is an introvert makes it sound as though this is nothing more than a description of their personality. I would have to disagree with this. Introversion isn’t just an adjective to define a social preference; it’s an entire way of thinking and perceiving the world. As someone who has introversion, I’d like to talk a bit about what it’s like.

To debunk the common misconception, no, being an introvert does not equate to being antisocial. I have quite a few friends, love them dearly, and get painfully bored if I go too long without seeing them. But the difference is more how I prefer to hang out with them.

I’m a college kid. Many college kids love turning up or being in a large group setting to meet new people. However, I detest large crowds, or any group of people greater than 10-15. I love hanging with my friends, but in quieter settings. Watching a movie together in our dorm. Going out to dinner somewhere. Taking a walk through the neighborhood. I love blasting music and dancing, but only if I’m by myself and can jam in my own private, embarrassing way.

In short, I’m particular about how and when I see my friends. I love social events, if they’re planned out well in advance, in a controlled setting. And after a social event, I generally have to “recharge” for a brief time before I’m comfortable going out again.

When I’m home from college, I’m usually in my room awake until at least two in the morning. Why? Because this is the only chunk of time I have where I can be alone and relax, or do some writing, without anyone bothering me for anything. This is also why I love having the house or dorm room to myself.

This attitude doesn’t equate to me hating people. I love people. Erm, most of them. Usually. Some of the time.

In all seriousness, I do love people, but after too much interaction with others, I start to get this little voice in the back of my head: “I wish everyone would go away. Shoo, pesky humans. Take me to a land where no one else exists to bother me, kind of like Will Smith’s setup in I Am Legend.”

That little voice is a bit of an asshole, huh?

There’s another misconception: all introverts are jerks. Not so. More like, we simply have a lower tolerance for interacting with others.

This goes hand in hand with the discomfort of interacting with strangers. When my home phone rings, I don’t answer unless I know the person. If someone is at the door and no one else is around to get it, I dread having to do so myself. And if I’m alone with someone I don’t know very well, I feel obligated to whistle, or shake my leg, or make small talk, just to keep them from feeling awkward.

Additionally, I work best on my own, which is why I love writing—no one else there telling me how to do it. This extends to my complete and absolute hatred of group projects.

But most of all, what defines introversion for me is other teenagers not really understanding my social drive. There have been countless times that my friends have lightly teased me about having no life, or never going out, or being boring. They’re like, “you’re in college, how can you not live it up?” And as fantastic as my friends are, there are only a handful of them who really understand that “being boring” is exactly what I’d prefer to do.

And now here we are tonight, on New Year’s Eve, and I’m alone in my room blogging. This is a poor example because I actually REALLY wanted to hang out with all of my friends tonight, but unfortunately almost all of my college friends live up near my college two hours away, and the rest are traveling. But, being by myself isn’t the worst thing, either.

For anyone else out there with introversion, I hope that reading this might help reassure you that your social preferences are perfectly acceptable and not at all abnormal. And for everyone else, I hope that reading this might help you better understand that introverts aren’t antisocial assholes…we just have a lower tolerance for humans.

Happy New year, everyone!

On Writing: Procrastination

“If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it isn’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

–  Unknown

 

Hi, everyone! No, I haven’t died or been killed by my schoolwork (yet).

I’m sure some of my veteran readers could’ve guessed that my posting would be spotty at best when the school year kicked off. I told myself, “No, Caleb, this year it’ll be different! With a year of college under my belt, I can now manage my time infinitely better, and I’ll post so often that the WordPress servers will poop their pants!”

Then the other day I logged back into my account for the first time in two months, like:

shrekoops

Sorry about that, readers.

One thing I am pleasantly surprised to see, however, is that my reader stats haven’t even been dented. I appreciate everyone’s support during my sparse posting, and am glad you all enjoy reading old posts even when I’m not around to create new ones.

Today, however, I am! Which is a nice segue into the meat of this article: procrastination.

I think any person with internet access has fallen victim to procrastination at some point. The internet is a fluid place; one minute I’m watching a YouTube tutorial about the difference between Enantiomers and Diastereomers, then I blink and suddenly I’m watching a video called “News Anchor Laughs During Murder Report.”

So, how does this factor into the lives of writers?

The thing about writing—in my experience, at least—is that it isn’t a process that can be divided into tiny chunks.

Here’s what I mean: think of doing homework. Any high schooler knows this is a verb for watching TV and having an open textbook nearby. But perhaps, during commercials, you can knock out a math problem or two.

Writing isn’t like this. Sure, you can set goals for yourself (“tonight I’ll finish chapters two and three!”) but it’s difficult to write a handful of sentences every ten minutes or so. Writing takes intense focus, which is why authors are often found doing their work in a private study or an area of similar seclusion. I don’t have an office, but when it’s writing time, I lock myself in my room and put on ambient music. No one is to disturb me.

And then the internet comes in.

Maybe you’ve heard it before: several times, when published authors have been asked how they get their work done, they’ve said step one is turn off the Wi-Fi. Or unplug the Ethernet cord.

Easier said than done, my quasi-Amish friends.

Sure, yeah, turn off the internet! But hey, what if you need to decide on a name for that new character? Where are you going to look up name etymologies?

How about if, mid-sentence, you know the word you want to use, but can’t think of it? A physical thesaurus would be a good tool, certainly, but the online thesaurus would take a tenth of the time.

And don’t you dare look at that smartphone.

Get my point? This generation of authors has grown up with the internet, and we—dare I say—depend on it. I’m an active person; when I’m in the writing zone, my thoughts are spilling onto the paper like rapid-fire pellets of creativity, and if I need to look up a word mid-sentence, I want to do so now. Immediately. Not put the whole process on hold while I rummage around my books for a thesaurus.

This is a perfectly acceptable reason to go on the internet, in my opinion. But as soon as I open that browser, it’s only a matter of time before I find myself watching “Dumbest Answers on Wheel of Fortune- Part 1” or something.

Stop whining, you helpless blogger, the masses sneer. You’re perfectly capable of avoiding distractions if you choose so. Blaming the internet for being able to distract you is like blaming alcohol for being able to intoxicate you.

To which I say, I agree in full! This is most certainly not an anti-internet post. I love the internet. I think it’s fantastic that, in several simple clicks, I have the ability to open and watch a video titled “Crackhead Does Backflip off House for a Dollar.” But I also think that as a culture, we’ve become less productive as a whole because of these time-wasters.

Several weeks ago, I sat down at my desk to do some work. The plan was to check Facebook, pull up a Pandora station, then do my material balance problems for Chemical Engineering.

So I pull up Facebook, scroll through it, then close it out without thinking. I open a new browser tab…and somehow, I’m back at Facebook. It takes me a minute to realize that I, by complete reflex, decided that the first thing to do after closing Facebook was to re-open Facebook.

I thought for sure that this was the sign of unhealthy internet use, until I mentioned it to my roommates. All three of them had done the exact same thing before. It was common.

Perhaps that’s a college thing, but even so, the fact that these time-wasting videos exist proves that they have an audience.

So, what can writers do about it?

Well, killing off internet access is good in theory, if you’re willing to do your research and fact-checking the old-school way. I’m also a fan of checking all of my social media right before I start writing, so I can put it out of my mind and focus on the current task. In the end, however, I think the best solution is the simplest one: avoid internet use if you can, but if you must, get what you came for and go back to writing.

And if the piece you’re currently writing is enticing enough to keep you away from those cat videos, then I think you have a real winner.

Summer 2014 in Review

“One day at a time, this is enough. Don’t look back and grieve over the past for it is gone. Do not be troubled about the future, for it has yet to come. Live in the present and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”

–  Unknown

 

It’s that time of year again. Whether you’re in middle school or high school or college, it’s almost time for classes to start. Summer has come to a close.

Every year, the night before I return to school, I write a post summarizing the summer. And since I head back to college tomorrow morning, here we are now.

I had a lot of anticipation riding on this summer, because it’s my first one since college. I had no idea if the friends (and ex-girlfriend) I said goodbye to last year would be exactly the same, or completely new people entirely.

This summer was by far full of some of the best memories I’ve ever made, and some of the worst. It was a constant ride of ups and downs, and in the end, I’m still not sure what to think of it.

Since I’m a college kid, classes ended nice and early, mid-May. I came back from college and felt all the immediate comforts of home: this great town, my high school friends who were dying to catch up with me, and my younger brother (AKA my best friend), who I’d managed to stay best friends with all year, despite us living a hundred miles apart.

The warm welcomes lasted for a few weeks, but by June, it hit me: I needed to do something productive this summer besides work on my book. Especially considering that said book received rejections on all pending full requests shortly after I got home.

Low point.

So, I applied for a job hauling books at the local library. And got called in for an interview. High point.

And didn’t get the job. Low point.

So I helped remodel my family’s house. I hung out with my ex-girlfriend without it being weird. My brother and I went on a trip with our Boy Scout troop to Ocean City. All high points.

July was full of its own highs and lows: I learned I had an inguinal hernia which would require surgery in August. Low point. But hey look, at least I didn’t take that job at the library. High point.

I then went on the best week-long adventure of my life.

Anyone familiar with scouts knows what Sea Base is. It’s a nationally recognized scout summer camp in Florida, and the older scouts in our troop headed there at the end of July for a week of sailing, fishing, staying up super late talking about life, and becoming much closer friends. The last night of the trip, we stayed in a hotel and ordered heaps of pizza and watched Ted on the flat screen.

Highest point.

August, like last summer, proved to be infinitely less fun.

I had my hernia surgery at the start of the month, and I got to spend the next two weeks bedridden watching the entire Harry Potter series, followed by every episode of The Office, in a row. I can’t decide what kind of point that was.

Then, in the final weeks of August, I did wonderfully productive things like re-sending my query letter out to a new round of agents, and packing, and getting myself pumped for the upcoming school year. And I did terribly upsetting things like have a falling-out with my brother, which I’m unsure is going to be resolved.

And now, I’m here. Same place as I was a year ago, the night before I left for college. Boy, it is astounding how life can feel like it moves so fast and so slow at the same time, amirite?

Let’s examine the end of last summer vs. the end of this one.

The blue are excerpts from my end of summer post last year.

Honestly, right now, everything’s happening way too fast for me to take any of it in. And I’m at the point where I can’t even imagine what my life will be like three days from now, let alone a week or a month or a year, like I used to. A year ago, around the time I started this blog, I had a pretty good idea that I’d be going to college right now. And I knew it would be busy. But did I know I would date the girl of my dreams, then have to break up with her? Or make a really awesome new best friend? Or get a full request from a literary agent?

No. I didn’t.

That makes me both excited and nervous for what life will be like one year from now, or even one month from now.

Hey, here we are a year later! I’m sitting at the same desk. Same computer. Sure, it has a new keyboard and monitor, but I’m still blogging, and I still have that same lingering nostalgia that keeps my thoughts going.

I have not had another girlfriend yet.  I got three new full requests from agents.

I want to go to college and have fun, but I don’t want to get sucked into anything and come out a different person. I love who I am, and more importantly, I love who my friends are. And if there’s one thing I’m really scared about, it’s that I’ll come home and find that they’re different.

My friends are the same. They’ve grown up, but they’re the same people. So am I.

I still don’t drink, by the way.

Today with my best friend was the more fun kind of goodbye, running around the neighborhood and of course, talking. It’s funny how in a lot of cases, that’s all you need. And when we said bye, no, it wasn’t emotional or anything like that. Mostly a “see ya,” same as the rest. But the difference with this was how fun it was, not to mention that it was the last of my goodbyes before I go. It was the perfect way to end summer and have a final social event before I go off to college.

This touches on my biggest regret of the summer. Last year, I saved my most important goodbye—my younger brother—for last, and it was the best one. I wanted to do the same thing this year, but we’ve both been super busy lately, and that combined with a lot of pressure on a lot of different fronts led to what I keep calling a “falling out” but what I’d like to think is really just a blip on the radar.

Needless to say, this summer overall was a bit less cut-and-dry then last year. Leaving home can be emotional, but the nice thing is, everyone makes a big DEAL of it, so it feels proper. The summer after college? That’s the awkward phase, the stretch where you’re trying to figure out if you should hang out with your new friends or your old ones and do you still have to do chores and why does it feel like half of your life is somewhere else.

I loved this summer, and I made a lot of great memories. I made a few not-great ones as well, but in the end, everything is what it is. Life goes on. Home is still home. Friends are still friends. Your brother is still your brother. And it all works out in the end, somehow.

I’m sad to say goodbye to summer, but I’m also hopeful for what this coming year will bring. Hey, my old friends and I survived one year apart from each other…we can do it again.

So, I suppose one big thing about me did change from last year: back then, I believed no friendship was permanent, that this all was about letting each other go and moving on. But now I know that true friendships really are permanent, that there are some people in your life who you’ll always love, even though you no longer walk the hallways with them anymore.

Let’s hope this year is the best one yet.

Here’s to permanence.

From High School to College (To All My Twelfth Grade Friends)

“Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it.”

–  C.S. Lewis

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for at least a year, then you’ll perhaps remember getting a bombardment of posts from me one year ago starting around now. It was my last week of high school, and I took advantage of the craziness to share my thoughts on my favorite high school novels, common hallways behaviors that annoy me, and most of all, what it’s like to move up the grades.

In myfirst post during that famous week—the one on May 13th—I ended it with this:

I’ll close this by saying one last thing. Earlier, I mentioned that I often wonder where I’ll be in the future. So I think I’ll take this opportunity to do it again, on my blog this time: I wonder where I’ll be a year from now. One year today, on May 13th.

Hey look! It’s been a year already!

But more than that, I’ve been hearing a lot of current seniors start to reflect on what it’s like to leave high school, to grow up and make that transition to college. Well, for anyone wondering what that feels like, I’ll do my best to lay it all out.

To my awesome twelfth grade friends:

One year ago today, I was where you are now. I was beginning the end of my high school career. I was absolutely full of excitement, because I only had seven days left in this hellhole known as twelfth grade, and I knew exactly where I was going to college, and I was so ready to get out of here and have the best summer ever and go off to a new place to make new memories.

But, I was also scared.

Not at this point, so much. I was scared of what it’d be like to say goodbye to everyone, but it wasn’t time for that yet. I still had the summer.

The last week of high school is going to feel exactly how you think it will. It’ll be full of wrap-ups in your classes, early grade closings, and perhaps last-minute projects from your crueler teachers. Your lack of motivation to do these projects will be spectacular.

When that last day finally comes, you’re going to be in shock. At first, you’ll be surprised how normal the day seems. You walk through the front doors like usual, meet up with your friends like any other day, and go to your classes.

But then the goodbyes kick in. You have to look at the classmates who you’ve sat with this whole year or maybe more, and tell them goodbye permanently. No, “see you in the halls next year.”

The close friends? Those goodbyes aren’t rough, not yet. You’re going to see them this summer! You can hang out whenever you want! The worst kind of goodbye is that kid who’s been your lab partner all year who still has a few years of high school left. Or your chorus classmates who are still underclassmen. All those people who you’re friendly with, but you aren’t close enough to see each other outside of school.

The last day of high school goes on, and you find yourself more and more in shock. You’re really leaving this place. This is the last time you’ll hear the school bell, or jam yourself through the hallway.

Before you know it, the final bell rings, and that’s it. You’re done with high school forever. And now is when the feels really kick in.

For me, the trigger was saying goodbye to my favorite teacher, who had constantly been there for me since literally day one in the building. Holy crap, was day one really four YEARS ago? It seems like just yesterday you were a scared freshman sitting in advisory trying to look like you couldn’t care less about fitting in, when really it was the most important thing in the world.

But! Good news: your feels dissolve at the first grad practice. Tedious rehearsals have a way of igniting your for-the-love-of-Jesus-get-me-the-hell-out-of-here mentality. That mentality persists all the way until you walk across the stage and get handed your diploma.

Senior week will perhaps become the best week of your life. It was for me, at least. My friends and I opted for an alcohol-free beach trip that still has some of my favorite memories. It’s certainly worth celebrating: you’re done with high school! Finally!

The summer after high school goes exactly how you think it will. You hang out with your friends more than you ever have before, because you know you don’t have much time left. There’s a ticking clock, and it feels like it keeps ticking faster.

Around the end of July, you start to realize how little time is left. Your parents keep nagging you about shopping for dorm supplies. You’ve met your future roommates, or perhaps you already knew them. And eventually—sooner than you wanted—your friends start leaving.

Most of the goodbyes are simple, unexpected; platonic, even. “We’ll video chat every week, right?”

But there’s always those one or two goodbyes that you’ve been dreading all summer, those one or two people who have been your lifeline for years and who you can’t even imagine living without seeing or talking to every single day.

Seniors, I’m here to tell you those goodbyes will be every bit as painful as you’re imagining them to be. You’ll hang out with those special people one last time. Pretend you don’t have to say goodbye. But then you will, and you’ll watch them drive away one last time, then you’ll go to your room and realize that for all of your wanting to leave high school, you never appreciated just how much you had while you were there.

Perhaps that painful goodbye is someone who’s more than a friend. Maybe it’s the person who you met and instantly clicked with, and you just wonder how you can meet someone who’s so right for you, then be forced to leave them behind.

I know that feeling, because I had it last summer. I had a perfect girlfriend, one who I got a crush on the second day of ninth grade but only had the opportunity to date for the last six months of it. And I had to make that painful goodbye, since she—in what I later realized was the smartest move ever—opted to not try the long distance thing.

That goodbye feeling is indescribable.

And finally, before you know it, it’s your turn to go. And you do. And that’s that.

Seniors, college is everything you’re imagining it to be. And it’s also a place where everything you imagined happens in a completely unexpected way. You make new friends who you didn’t think existed. You keep in touch with the old ones.

Some of the olds ones change for the worse, exactly like you’re afraid they will. And you stop talking to them. And you let them go, even though that was the thing you were afraid of doing the most.

And afterwards, you’re okay.

I say all of this because I experienced every bit of it. I had that amazing Senior week. I made those painful goodbyes. I met those new friends. And I let go of several old ones, people who changed so much that I didn’t even know who they were anymore. And it was so much easier than I’d imagined.

And now I’m here. It’s my last week of my freshman year of college, everyone. And it’s been the best school year of my life. Yes, there have been a few rough patches. But I’ve had so many good times and so many new friends. And you have to trust that you will too, even if it means parting with the people who you don’t think you can live without.

Because you can. I promise.

To all of my friends about to graduate high school: live it up now and never forget how good this part of your life is. And have that best summer ever. And believe that you’re moving on to amazing things, because you are.

Trust me, I know.