Senior goodbye: Powerful pages


Shae Daugherty

Senior Katie Bardwell reflects on how “The Great Gatsby” has inspired and impacted her life since she first read it.

Editor’s Note: Senior goodbyes are student pieces that reflect on their past years in high school. These pieces take very different perspectives and the prompt was meant to be vague to inspire creativity.

Like most students, I rolled my eyes at required reading. I thought it was dull, unnecessary and unenjoyable. Then my teacher assigned The Great Gatsby, and I found that required reading could be meaningful and have a profound impact on my life. It was an escape. It was my way of healing and an outlet for my struggles.

I learned more about myself through that book, as I related to the ways of Gatsby. No, I don’t have a seemingly endless amount of money. I barely have four cents to my name, but I was drawn to his hopeless optimism, the very thing I desperately needed at the time.

My sophomore year, the year I read The Great Gatsby, one of my best friends passed away. I was ridden with anxiety and had lost my identity. I felt like a hollow shell of the person I once was. Each day I called and texted my mom at least six times, asking her to let me go back home. I had never hated going to school each day, but it was like the day my friend passed, the light I once had inside of me had burned out.

I felt empty.

I felt it when he wasn’t kicking the back of my chair each day in class. I felt it when I didn’t see him walking down the staircase during lunch. I felt it when I reread that last days text messages over and over. I felt it when the only thing running through my head each night was the last thing he said to me, “I missed you too.”

Then my teacher handed out a copy of The Great Gatsby to each of us. We read through the book in a two-week period, and I was rendered speechless after each session of reading. Looking to the story, I found missing pieces of myself. I, too, was yearning for validation and love from others and covering up the things that hurt me. Gatsby was a dreamer, an idealist, and an optimist, and I saw myself through the actions and words of Gatsby. I lost track of time in this book.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is an artist. His sentences painted the scenes that created a rolling movie inside of my mind. This story was helping me heal by distracting my brain and letting me find some inner peace.

I felt myself being pieced back together. I felt myself learning to laugh again. I felt happy.

I felt the reignition of the light I thought had burned out for good.

It’s cliche to say, but never underestimate the power of a story. Don’t let the fact that someone is forcing you to read a book prevent you from enjoying the story and making personal connections with the characters. Though some stories are works of fiction, most characters have qualities we can relate back to ourselves. We become the best versions of ourselves when we see who we want to be, and we make it happen for our own sake.

I had so many opportunities to not read The Great Gatsby. The Sparknotes of the story were a Google search away. But if I had chosen to do that, I wouldn’t have made the connection I did with this story and with Gatsby.

Reading may not be the most fun way to pass the time for some people, but it immerses yourself into a world different than your own better than any movie or video game. Reading is intimate and individual. Reading shapes you into a more secure person with dreams and ambitions to bring you closer to the person you strive to become. Reading is intentional and gives us an opportunity to connect with something.

So don’t stop reading. Don’t stop listening to stories. Don’t stop dreaming to be the best version of you.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.