Column: Putting yourself out there


Stu Mair

Senior Riley Laurence shares his thoughts on senior year.

Riley Laurence, Staff Reporter

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of farewells from some of the seniors on The Red Ledger staff.

As senior year comes to a close, I have been struggling with the strange phenomenon of realizing that all of the “senior things” I have observed over the past few years are actually happening to my friends and I. This unsettling realization can probably be best explained by the fact that we, as humans, do not truly understand the significance of something until it is happening to us personally.

For example, I never viewed the  “Senior Walk” on the first and last day of school as more than an excuse to miss part of first period until it became my turn to walk down that pathway into the school with my friends. I never viewed graduation parties as more than a social gathering to wish graduates good luck until I began to receive invites from friends in my grade announcing that they would be graduating and attending a different school than the one I’ve chosen.

Until now, I have had the privilege of not having to be the one to walk out of the school that one last time or to send out letters to my family and friends announcing that I will be going to school somewhere hours away from home next year. And while it is exciting to be moving on from high school and going to college, there is no denying the fact that leaving your comfort zone is scary.

Up until this last year of high school, I hadn’t done much of anything outside of what was familiar to me. I spent the bulk of the last four years spending my time only doing the things I was completely comfortable doing, carefully considering the sequence of events that would follow my actions. Looking back now, I have realized that I did not stray far from what I was familiar with because of the certain sense of security I got from knowing how things would play out. It was not until this year, however, that I finally realized the precaution I was taking by staying in my comfort zone was actually hurting me in the long run by prohibiting me from putting myself out there.

I moved to Lovejoy mid-semester in the fall of 2013 knowing a grand total of three people, and only having met one of those three in person. I spent lunch in the CAT or in the library and did not talk to many people in my classes, much less outside of my classes. I was told to “put myself out there,” but life is not some low-budget Disney Channel movie where the main character switches schools and makes friends with the kid who gets bullied by picking up all the papers he dropped after being pushed into the lockers.

It is much more terrifying.

Even if I didn’t have to overcome my anxiety, I still believe that not enough credit is given to kids who can introduce themselves to strangers and try to make friends with people they have never met. I thought the idea of “putting yourself out there” was cliche and unrealistic when taken out of the context of the Disney Channel plot, and consequently spent my sophomore and junior year in a cloud of depression and anxiety that, while caused by other circumstances, was aggravated by my lack of self-esteem that came directly from the fact that I did not have a support system in the form of friends.

As the first semester of senior year was coming to a close, I became so tired of not letting myself make friends that I gave up the idea of staying inside my comfort zone. I made an effort to be more social in my classes and became good friends with a couple people in my pharmacy class, which led to me going to a volleyball game with them and being around more people and then starting to hang out with a lot of my classmates in a group setting. As scary and anxiety-inducing as this was, it slowly got easier and easier for me to be around people I didn’t know that well, allowing me to get to know them better. I “put myself out there,” as stupid as it sounds, and ended up making the best friends I have ever had in my life (shout out to SKA and SB fam). I went from being depressed and consumed by social anxiety to being the happiest I’ve ever been and having a support system in a group of friends that I will keep even after we walk across that stage; all because, somewhere along the road, a switch flipped and I realized that if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone I would be cheating myself out of ever giving anyone the opportunity to become friends with me.

It sounds so dumb coming from other people and it seems like something that only happens in movies, but I of all people would know how unappealing putting yourself out there sounds. But before you roll your eyes and decide to stick to what you’re familiar with, at least take my word for the fact that if you don’t put yourself out there and you decide to keep doing only the things you’re comfortable with, you could be missing out on a life you never thought would be possible. I put myself out there on my first day at Lovejoy by walking down to E103 and asking former adviser Brian Higgins to let me join the Red Ledger staff, and here I am three years later writing my 50th newspaper story and saying goodbye to a staff that has been a comfort zone for me throughout my time at Lovejoy High School. Put yourself out there. There could be an entire world out there that you’re depriving yourself of simply by doing yourself (what you think is) a favor by playing it safe.