They say a picture paints a thousand words, but I’m beginning to believe that no amount of words can do justice to what I have to share. As I gaze around my dimly lit bedroom, the trinkets and troves I’ve accumulated all tell their own story, each one as significant as it is poignantly simple. From dusty debate trophies, to homecoming garters, to the litter of polaroid photos splashed above my desk, the sheer gravity of everything dawns on me. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to summarize everything I’ve experienced in the last four years, much less attempt to organize it all. So, I did what any nostalgically evocative teenager would do.
I scrolled through my camera roll.
Evidently, high school whizzed by like a speeding bullet train with no clear destination, but the memories made along the way would forever remain intact through photos, videos and memorabilia. The journey starts with a shaky, blurry selfie of myself grinning a smile that’s uncomfortably wide, alongside two friends who looked entirely unprepared to be reverse photo-bombed. Three freshmen, unbeknownst to the saga that would lay before them, simply enjoying lunch, laughter, and each other’s company. Even now, this photo represents something unmistakably precious to me: it wasn’t the quirks of high school that I’ll look back on fondly, it’ll be the shared experiences I had with my friends which I’ll remember dearly. While we may joke about the poorly wrapped burritos, the drinking fountains that always lacked water pressure, and the traffic getting into the parking lot, we’ll always know that it was having each other every day, that made high school feel like our home, away from home. At least it did for me.
They say that you’ll find your identity whilst in high school, a vague enigmatic belief that seems plausible enough, but my camera roll would beg to differ. It’s difficult to pinpoint me into any stereotypical identity because I, like many others, reflect shades of varying aspects. I could be called the inquisitive journalist who’s always on the hunt for gossip and news around campus, or perhaps I’m the accomplished public speaker brandishing poise and awards that mirror my success. I could be the academically-driven student who overloaded on AP courses and studied past midnight to compensate for it, but I’m equally the kid who made 2 AM IHOP runs for pancakes before skateboarding on top of parking garages. I blasted music way too loud while driving on highways. I woke up at 5 AM on Saturdays for speech and debate tournaments. Went to DC to shake hands with senators. Ran a Kickstarter project. Auditioned for college drama programs. I make killer wings. You could learn all these things about me if you were to gloss through my photo albums.
Now, let me tell you what wasn’t captured..
I stand in front of my mirror every morning to choke out words and phrases that were physically difficult for me to say because I had speaking disorders that only my closest friends were aware of. It makes choosing speech and debate my main extracurricular seems pretty ironic.
I can’t remember the last time I spent a birthday, a Thanksgiving, or a Christmas with both parents present. At least one of them was always gone for work, but I always remember being fine with that. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be.
I have minor leg deformities in both knees, which made playing sports impossible. My meniscus injury in ninth grade made me quit altogether, retiring me to the sidelines before I even had a chance to prove my worth on the field. There’s a certain feeling of desolation that surrounds what could have been.
Sure, I am what my camera roll will tell you. But there is an entirely different story of me that exists under this facade of perfection I constantly imitate, and it’s slowly getting tiring.
There’s a quote by this French composer Claude Debussy, “Music is the space between the notes,” which I believe is the aptest description of what our camera rolls, our Instagram pages, and our photo boards aim to depict: the highlights of our life. We like to remember the good times, the “notes,”, while we seem to forget the spaces in between that may have shook us to our core. I for one can say, I have been shaken more times in the past four years than I can remember. As I’m scrolling through the photos of my camera roll, one thing is for certain: I never intended to remember my lowlights, the spaces between the notes that I’d rather forget. But as I’m slowly swiping past each smiling selfie, each group photo, each “boys will be boys” video, I come to terms with my brittle reality. The highlights are a perfected version of me I constantly chase. The lessons learned from my lowlights are what have truly shaped me into who I’ve become. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s perfectly human.
I don’t believe I am in any grandiose position to offer advice to others about how to approach high school, much less life in general. But I will say this: live in those highlights, those perfections that seem infinite. But, learn and grow from your lowlights, and hold those personal moments close to your heart as well. It’s the perfect imperfections that shape you to become who you are, so cherish them indefinitely.
Something the photos, the memories, and those uncaptured moments have taught me is that the truest of friends will be there for you, no matter where you are in the music, whether it be the notes, or all the complications in between. So to my personal friends, I thank you for being at my side during my most triumphant moments, but I commend you even more for being there when I needed you the most. Special shoutout to Angie, Garrett, Christian, Karina, Ariel, Erica, Alan, Matt, Zoe, Justin, Mr. Cosio, and countless others who brought joy and comfort into my life. I love you all more than you may ever know.
As the eloquent Post Malone once stated “I’m no good at goodbyes,” and I don’t believe I will be either in a few months. As graduation and college draw nearer every day, I dread having to say goodbye to everything I call home. But, this bullet train of my life is headed in the right direction, the path constantly being shaped by the memories made around me. Call it a stroke of catharsis, but I believe I’ve painted my picture to the best of my ability. Is it perfect? No. Are there imperfections? Plenty. But perhaps, that’s the beauty of it all.