- Books, Literature, and Writing
Reflections of a High School Senior
When I look back on my life, I have to come to the conclusion that I used to be fairly dumb. Which is scary, because that means that I could be dumb now. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m smart now, because when I look back, the stupid things I did generally related to lacking a sense of equality. Basically, I’ve said some offensive things that I now realize were stupid. I’ve made other mistakes too, of course. I’ve not listened to my parents when I should have, I’ve not done things that I now wish I would have, and I’ve done things that I now wish I hadn’t.
Overall though, I have to look back fairly favorably on my past. I often say I have no regrets, because it’s true. I have no regrets. I have no time for regrets. What, am I going to mope around wishing I’d done something different? No. Sometimes I think, I could have done that differently, but I don’t regret it. I don’t even know what that means. You don’t get any do overs, so why even entertain the thought?
It’s strange. I feel like a veteran. Like a sports veteran. Someone not quite as agile as I used to be, but with so much experience, that it can compensate for anything. But that can’t be true, because next year I’ll be a rookie. So what am I? The closer I get to the end, the more ambiguous it gets, and the more I realize that I’m not at the end.
I have two teachers this year who are retiring, yourself and Ms. Brown. I just find it incredible who similar our experiences are, even though they’re so different. You’re stepping down from something you’ve built up for yourself, where as I’m stepping into something I’ve yet to build up. Or have I built up something in high school that I’m stepping down from?
I’ve gotten off topic. Yet, I haven’t really. Anything I say happened in the past, so even if I say how I’m feeling today, right at the moment I’m writing this, by the time you read this, it will be the past. Which leaves me wondering, what am I to talk about?
Perhaps the best way to look back is to tell stories, and as someone who fancies themselves a storyteller of sorts, I suppose that’s what I should do.
The first memory I have is getting a bicycle for my birthday. I believe it was my fourth birthday. I don’t know whether or not most people remember their first memory or not, but I know mine. I have many memories from my early life: walking down the stairs blindfolded and getting yelled at, my first baby sitter, playing games with my family. But the bicycle is definitely the first.
I have been, and am still, of the mind that my early life was uninteresting. I remember in elementary school, we had a project to write a story about an interesting life event. Everyone else seemed to have one, but I could not think of a single one that I could write anything lengthy about. After days of thinking, I settled for this story:
Our family had decided to move from our old house in Buffalo and go to an Amherst Suburb. My grandparents had decided to do the same. They were going to build their house right down the street from us actually. So, when the builders dug up the dirt for the basement, it left a giant pile of dirt right next to where the house would eventually be. My brother and I decided it would be a good idea to have a rock war on top of that hill. Miraculously, no one got hurt, until my brother decided to throw a rock from the ground where he was standing, up to the top of the hill where I was standing. The precarious ledge I was perched on broke, and I fell what at the time seemed like two stories, but in hindsight, was probably closer to one. Still, no one was hurt somehow.
Not that interesting, but again, in retrospect, I suspect no one’s story was very interesting. But it was that assignment that made me realize how uneventful my life was. I have a few more stories now, but if there’s one thing I learned in high school, it’s this: it’s not what the story is, it’s how you tell it. I have a friend who every story he tells makes you wish you were there. But, the thing is, he goes to this school, and one day, it smacked me like Chris Brown to Rihanna; it wasn’t that his stories were inherently interesting, it was that he made them interesting. It was from this friend that I learned ninety percent of what I know about telling a story. Which is the perfect transition. Because the best way to complete this piece is by using a book as a metaphor for life. Not a new concept. “Chapters of life” and what-not.
My High School
My arbitrary home away from home for four arbitrary years.
So, how do I look into myself? How do I introspect? I mean technically, everyone lives in the past. Not to get overly scientific, but by the time our brains perceive anything, it’s already past. Where do we draw the line for past present and future? I could look backward, inward and forward just within the span of one day, so what am I supposed to do over the course of a lifetime. I could look inward based on this day, this week, this year, high school, what am I to do?
I keep a journal. Did I answer the question or make a proper transition? No. But at the same time, yes. This assignment (I feel strange calling it an assignment, even though it is one, because I mean, this is the last paper I’ll ever write for high school, shouldn’t it be something more than an assignment?) could be done be me just going back through my journal, which I might still well do. It’s hard to introspect because there’s no standard for comparison. All I can do is say I’m better than I was before. I can’t say I’m better or worse than I will be. I mean I can tell you that I’ll be better in the future, but what does that even mean? All I can say with certainty is that I’m happy with myself…most of the time. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing a part of life. I finished seventh is my class, but what does that mean? I think I’ll like Canisius, but how do I know? If I don’t like it, how will I know whether or not it was the best choice? What even constitutes a best choice? I don’t know.
I suppose the best approach to this section then, is just how I’m feeling right now. I guess I just feel certain now. There’s not much I can change, even though I may have questions. But who cares about my questions? I can’t answer them, they can only answer themselves. I’m not worried about anything. What do I have to be worried about? Tell me one reason I should be worried. I don’t even know what that word means. It’s not even in my vocabulary. Although nervous is. Anxious is. I’m anxious about a lot of things. There’s still many unknowns. But everyone has unknowns. I know some people who spent so much time trying to get into a top tier college, and they don’t even know what they want to major in. I recently heard someone say about colleges, “Cream rises to the top”. Implying, the best people will make it to where they’re going no matter what.
No matter what.
Other than that, there’s stupid things that come up every now and again. But I’m focused. I’m trying to be more focused. I want to finish my second book this summer. That’s all I’m really thinking about. I just came from an epic. You know what, let’s talk about books. I just finished a chapter. And it was a damn long chapter. One of those chapters where you go back and say, “Here, right here is where the author should’ve cut it off”. I’m ready to move on. I need a break first, but then again, so does everyone. You ever notice how about this time of year, with about a calendar month left in school, people start to go crazy. Well, it’s not always that way, but it usually is. Maybe it’s only me who’s noticed it, but it’s true. People need a break right about now. Right after A.P’s, even if they aren’t taking any. I’m sure there’s many factors that go into it: the weather, fatigue, boredom. The point is, that there is no point, but the point in this case, is I’m ready for the next chapter. The previous chapter ended on a cliff-hanger, and I’m looking forward to resolving those issues.
But there’s a problem with all of this. I’m looking at all this through the lens of the school. They got me. I didn’t want them to get me, but they have. I view everything through school because it’s such a big part of my life—of all our lives. Five days a week for seven hours a day. Think about that. Think about this: how much time do we spend sleeping everyday. No, no, hold on. We don’t even get to sleep because of school, but when we do, that’s time out of our lives. Time that’s separate from school, which is also our time. I have no problem throwing health class under the bus when I say the only thing I took from that class was that I’ll never get that time back. I don’t want to start on time, but I will, because it’s the perfect transition.
Because I have to look ahead in time. Well, I’m going to be a writer. Regardless of what anyone says, I will be. The only person in my way is me, and who knows, I might tell myself no at some point, but put me on the record, I’ll be a writer in some way. I remember in a business class once, we had to do a project on a career, and I chose writer, and the teacher said I had to be more specific. The teacher was right in the specific sense of that project, but I’ll still be a writer I think, no more or less specific.
Other than that, I don’t know. Didn’t I already tell you? I haven’t started the next chapter of my book yet, and I don’t cheat by skipping ahead. How am I going to see into the future? I can guess.
They say (whoever “They” are) that high school are the best years of your life. Oh please no. Don’t misinterpret, I really enjoyed high school. Even the parts I hated were valuable to me. You know what? I’ll just say it, valuable to my book, my biography. I think this will all make more sense if I make everything an analogy to a book. But here’s the thing, if my best years are already behind me, why should I continue on? If my next X years are all going to be worse than my last four…
But that does make for a larger point. At some point, I will experience my best years. I heard a writer once giving a speech in which she struggled with the thought that she may have already wrote her best book. While I am confident I haven’t yet written my best chapter, it’s uncommon the last chapter will be the best in any book. The climax always comes sooner than that.
So, I suppose I have to make predictions. But I can’t. Can I get scientific? Or perhaps I’m being more philosophical. In some universe a radioactive chemical spill gave you superpowers that you used to save the world. Why not this one? Anything can happen, and maybe everything will happen, depending on how you interpret quantum theory. I’m not good at math or science. I would have never made through any high school science class without great lab partners. Scott Kiely, now he can do science. If he hadn’t helped me get through labs, I would’ve never passed lab for the last two years, and I certainly wouldn’t have finished seventh in class rank. Isn’t that sort of messed up? How people who helped out so significantly along the way could end up with a worse class rank than you? In fact, most of the people who I relied on the most in school finished worse off than me. Of course, class rank will mean nothing in ten years, and probably sooner than that. But still, why? It seems wrong.
I keep getting off topic, but I hope that’s okay. I’m trying to strike a balance. If it was up to me, this entire thing would probably be one paragraph, and it would be saturated with references so obscure, that even I probably wouldn’t get them if I went back to read them in twenty years. That’s a lie, I actually have a really good memory. My memory is so good, I sometimes pretend it’s not as good as it is. But it’s only for certain things. I’m no memory champion by any stretch of the imagination. For example, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast two days ago, but I do remember a dream I had when I was about five years old. Dreams are also a weird thing for me. I used to have a lot of dreams, and I remember a lot of dreams from a certain time period. Now, I can’t remember the last time I had a dream. Well, that’s a lie too, I do remember the last time I had a dream, but it was a strange dream within a strange set of dreams which I still am not sure which ones happened and which ones did not. They were nothing like my old dreams. I’ve heard everyone dreams every night, and it’s just a matter of if they remember it or not. I find this hard to believe, yet it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true.
You ever type while listening to music, and get so sure of your typing and what you want to say, that you’re literally typing to the beat of the music. I am right now.
So, basically, I’ve been asked to predict the last chapter of a book for which I don’t even know the fate of any of the characters. The equivalent of trying to guess the ending of a book by reading the first sentence. Which is quite easy if you’re reading a certain Vonnegut book, in which the first sentence tells you what the last sentence will be. Somehow though, I feel this is not the case. But I must admit, I secretly wish my life sort of ends up like a Kurt Vonnegut book.
I can say what I hope will happen. I could spend pages on it (maybe), but isn’t it obvious? Everyone wants the same thing: good things. That’s it. No one will say they predict their life being a failure. I’m not exception.
I think the best way to end this would be by going back to that journal I mentioned earlier. I did go back and look at it. Remember how I said earlier that I used to be stupid? Yeah, that’s true. That’s very true. But fortunately most of it stayed in that journal. I guess it’s good that I get to see my growth though. I think everyone should keep a journal for one reason though. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I know when I don’t use my journal, I tend to have the urge to write what I would’ve put in the journal onto social media. I think a lot of people use social media as a journal, is what I’m saying. But it’s so much nicer to keep it in a journal where you don’t have to worry about everyone seeing it, but you still get to get it out of you. I find that when I keep this stuff in, nothing really happens, but when I get it out, I get to think about it. The ideas evolve, I can come back to them later, I come to realizations I wouldn’t have, I make connections I wouldn’t have. I figure out what my brain is trying to tell me, when I wouldn’t have even realized my brain was speaking. Maybe this is because I’m just a writer though.
I once wrote a short story, called “Here’s a story”. I don’t know why I wrote it, but it applies here. It was about how nothing’s really important, but we make everything into stories, and the only thing that let’s our stories live are characters, because life has no plot, but it has strong characters.
So I give anyone the same advice I’d give myself. Tell stories. Everyone needs stories. But more importantly, know your characters, because nothing’s more important.