Senior Goodbye: Behind the smile

%22The+legacy+that+I+am+leaving+behind+is+not+one+of+great+awards%2C+or+accomplishments%2C+but+one+of+kindness%2C+and+the+pureness+of+the+human+heart.+All+of+the+hate%2C+love%2C+and+everything+in+between+helped+me+become+the+man+I+am+today.%22

Olivia Lauter

“The legacy that I am leaving behind is not one of great awards, or accomplishments, but one of kindness, and the pureness of the human heart. All of the hate, love, and everything in between helped me become the man I am today.”

It’s time for me to say goodbye to this chapter of my life, and begin anew. I remember a point in my life where I would wake up and dread having to attend school. All of the unique faces, personalities and hobbies that came with attending school frightened me to my core. But, no one ever knew because all they could see when they’d looked at me was an energetic, smiling boy, who for some reason only had one dimple. Contrary to their beliefs, my head was filled to the brim with anxious thoughts.

The voices said that I would never be enough, nor would I amount to anything. I felt alone, secluded by myself in a world where nothing seemed to go as I’d hoped. Then, one day, I discovered something that would change me for the rest of my life– I  realized that my purpose in this life was not only to try and find what brings me joy, but to brighten the days of everyone I meet along my journey.

So, how did I do that? Well, it wasn’t easy to start. But, to begin, I branched out. I tried new things with the purpose of finding my place in the world. I decided to cement myself as part of the football program. When I played high school football from 2016-2018, I played center, even though, during that time, I just had not grown yet physically. But, I did a lot of growing mentally. The lineman coach at the time, Coach Gunner, assisted me in coming to the conclusion that I needed to focus on myself for a while. So, I left the football program and the band of brothers that I’d been fighting with from when I was a child in search of something new. 

This is when I stumbled upon room E103. It began with the learning of the Watergate scandal during Nixon’s presidency. Whether I was writing a review of a Taylor Swift album for the umpteenth time, or covering the Lady Leopards soccer team, the emotions I had would flood onto the paper. Sometimes I wasn’t supposed to convey emotions on my current piece, and I still struggle with that to this day. But, while typing on those Mac keyboards, in a room that has no service, I started to feel as if I was in a home away from home. On one day in 2018, during my journalism class, we were welcoming a new transfer student named “Asia” (AH-SEE-UH), and the welcoming feeling my classmates spewed out spread across the room, and never left. In that moment, I came to the resolution that these people, who had never met this girl before, were people that I wanted to build lasting relationships with. I had finally found something that I could be selfishly-happy about, until I fell into a downward spiral that consisted of skipping school,  and ignoring those fellow staff members that I had built relationships with.

I’d wake up every morning to a text message from my peers asking me how my story was progressing, or if I’d be attending class that day. As a hard-headed teenage boy, I had become annoyed with the constant contacting, but all of those misinterpreted messages would one day bring me to a summarization that it was their own form of checking in on me. As I sat in my room half-past midnight with the windows down, and the music up,  I couldn’t help but scroll through all the unread texts from them. It finally clicked. A feeling of regret shot straight to my stomach. I decided right then and there in the 2018-19 school year to make more of an effort to appreciate them, and all that they’d done for me. 

As the years progressed, the upperclassman whom I was always staring at their backs, and looking up to, had to take their leave. I had to become the upperclassman, and it was my turn to not only help the younger staffers with their writing, but also with their everyday lives. Although my attendance to this day is nowhere near perfect, I had started making progress on going to school more, putting more effort into daily activities, and getting my stories in on time with the goal of becoming a figure they could look up to. I’ve never considered myself a role model to anyone, but no one can say I’m a bad person. I wanted to show the younger classmen that even though someone can be as far from perfect as I am, they could still do wonderful things. They might’ve never noticed, but for all I know, all of the stupid jokes that I would spit out on the daily would bring them to a smile. I thought to myself that if even for a second I could take away whatever negative thought was on their mind, that they could have the smallest glow of hope in a dark world. To this day, none of them know how grateful I am just for the appreciation that they gave me. 

In total, all of The Red Ledger staff and teachers over the years provided me with an outlet where I could truly express myself, and not the man that was hiding behind the pale skin of a 16-year-old boy. It took an extended amount of time, but I accepted the help of others. I discovered that these despicable thoughts that I had didn’t need to only be knowledge to me. Over the years, after all of the messages, emails, and “keep your head up”(s) some of my fellow staff members truly understand me as a person. They notice when I walk into class and am not wearing a genuine smile. They notice when I start to fall back into my old, lazy habits. They notice my flaws. But most of all, they notice my small accomplishments.

As I sit in this way too expensive chair, in my way too dark bedroom, unable to stop myself from getting emotional about this being the last thing that I will write for The Red Ledger, there’s a legacy I’d like to leave behind. The legacy that I am leaving behind is not one of great awards, or accomplishments, but one of kindness, and the pureness of the human heart. All of the hate, love, and everything in between helped me become the man I am today. From the bottom of my heart, students and teachers of classroom E103, I love you all, and you guys can do anything you set your minds to. Just remember, in moments of despair and hatred, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. There is good in your hearts.