Lately, as high school has been coming to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll remember about this place that I’ve spent my last four years at. They’ve certainly been the most transformative years of my life; a smattering of academics, relationships of all kinds, and for the first time, coming to grips with the fact that everything I do is leaving a permanent mark on my identity. And the single most transformative factor has been the people I’ve met. Every person I’ve met has changed me in some way.
Sophomore English Teacher
“You can all take your clothes off right here, right now.”
His outrageous lectures were the gossip of all his students. Every student in the entire school wanted to have him as a teacher. His classroom was always either dead silent–ears glued to his every word–or bursting at the seams with laughter, sometimes out of sheer awkwardness. But even that awkwardness was comforting in a way because it was shared. It screamed: “Hey, it’s okay to be uncomfortable.” “It’s okay to feel like this sometimes.” “You don’t have to hide these thoughts from other people.” “You are normal.” They were laughs of relief.
It was so comforting to see an authority figure like him talk about such “taboo” topics; and to not feel like all teachers were robots who feed on homework and spit out letter grades.
He guided us through our existential crises (common for our age) by teaching us about our freedom and why it can make us feel despair, and about The Gaze, Anguish, and Malaise. He was the one who initiated my interest in philosophy, specifically Sartre’s Existentialism. Every student deserves to have a teacher like him.
First high school friend
I had arrived in high school with virtually no friends. The group of friends I had from middle school dispersed: one girl moved to California, and the other two went to different high schools in our city.
Luckily, that break, while I was three-parts mourning the disbanding of my friendship circle, and one-part hoping to make new friends before the first day of school, my hopes were answered in the form of a petite girl in the bright floral dress who had a very infectious smile.
We became close really quickly because of her authenticity. She struck me as someone who had nothing to hide, and that made it easier for me to let go and be honest around her as well. I saw in her the power of vulnerability; she constantly put herself in positions that most people would feel embarrassed for, but she was the type who had an enormous capacity for risk, and gambled on her emotions.
I would very soon learn her more eccentric qualities.
She has an obsession with everything organic and all-natural. Non-organic was the equivalent of poison.
She has a habit of typing the smiling emoticon with multiple capital D’s so that it looks like :DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD and then she makes fun of its “multiple chins.”
And the first time I went to her room, I was stunned by the number of motivational quotes taped all over her room ranging from “If you can dream it, you can do it” to “Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” She was a firm believer in the power of affirmations. Her self-improvement quirks struck me as slightly odd at first, but I now see them as testaments to her ambition and positivity. She’s very idealistic and a sucker for soppy love stories, but her steadfast idealism is one of her most endearing traits. She always sees the good in others, and failures to her are only minuscule bumps in the road that never keep her down for very long.
After ninth grade, she transferred from our public high school in Washington state to Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding school in Connecticut. It was a decision she made entirely herself; she had always wanted to go to the East Coast because she thought it could offer her a higher standard of education and because she loved the culture—the sophistication and intellectual vibe. I warned her about being homesick but she’s the type of person who chases after what she wants relentlessly, and she stuck by her decision to go. After she left, we maintained contact, and I still consider her one of my best friends today.
I remember this one long, heartfelt phone conversation we had a couple months ago after she was turned down by the guy she asked to the First Hurrah dance. She had spent the entire night before baking meringues and brownies for him and she was devastated. I comforted her by assuring her that he probably just didn’t know her well enough, and encouraged her to ask someone else, but I didn’t know if my words could truly alleviate the sting of rejection. However, I was pleasantly surprised the next day when I saw a photo on Facebook of her asking another guy, with success! She had a huge grin on her face and there was no trace of the distraught girl I heard on the phone the previous day.
I think that incident sums up the type of person she is in a nutshell.
Current best friend
We bonded through our shared love of writing. We swapped poems and short stories.
It was like meeting an extension of myself.
We were fellow repressed creative writers in a STEM-oriented school, and our first months of “meeting” each other was a whirlwind of confessions and revelations we had never told to any other human being. I say “meeting” with quotation marks because we had actually known each other since elementary school but we didn’t truly get to know each other until sophomore year in high school.
It’s weird that you can go to school with someone for a decade and still not know anything about that person. That’s honestly sad.
And I don’t think I would’ve ever known this side of her if not for a string of coincidences that brought us together.
I’ve been thinking lately that every relationship (whether friendship or love) is built on chemistry, compatibility, and coincidence. You need to coincidentally meet the right person at the right time.
The day we had our first conversation:
12am: Lunch time. I’m waiting in line for my food. The main entree is kind of weird looking, a cross between liquified beans and really really overcooked pork. I guess I must’ve made a face or something because the girl behind me starts laughing. As we walk to a table, our conversation winds from the questionable cafeteria food to the book Naked Lunch. Turns out, she’s a fellow weirdo who likes to read in her spare time.
2:30pm: School ends. I see her at the front entrance. I wave. I find out we are taking the same bus home.
3:15pm: We’re so engrossed in conversation that a mutual friend has to remind me to get off at my stop.
6:00pm: We message each other nonstop on Facebook. I’ve never smiled and laughed at my computer screen so much in my life as I did during that conversation.
But to be honest, despite how close we are now, we could very well drift apart in ten years. Maybe even five. Maybe our friendship will be reduced to pleasantries over email and holiday wishes. Life has a way of doing that. But as of right now, I know that my life has been significantly enriched by the people I’ve met. And whether or not we stay this close in the future is irrelevant in this moment. I don’t like words like forever. Forever isn’t real. What’s real is right now.
And right now, I like talking to you. You get my sense of humor. We talk about things like passion and traveling the world. You listen to me when I need to talk whether it’s testing woes or existential wonderings. We skip the small talk and go straight to real talk.
And that’s enough for me.