Here’s a draft I saved last year that I’m going to finish today.
June 14, 2014
My thoughts are in a jumble, kinda. I don’t know what to feel or how I should have felt about graduating from high school. May the following paragraphs be an accurate representation of the cacophony of voices in my head.
This would be the first time in my memory that I wouldn’t bring a backpack to school. I planned for this in advance. I drank water until my urine was clear so I wouldn’t need a water bottle; packed all of my snacks in a plastic bag that would fit in the cargo pocket of my worn khaki shorts that I had specifically set aside for this day; kept a pen and pencil for signing yearbooks in the other cargo pocket; and brought my AP Physics C Princeton Review Guide and yearbook in my hands. Because this was going to be the last day of high school, the last day of Fremont schooling.
Yet it was the last time I walked outside at 7:50 AM and closed the garage door through the remote signaling keypad attached to the side wall. It had become a habit for me, these past six years in this home, closing the garage when I walked outside 10 minutes before school begins. This was our thing, our tradition between the garage and I. I walked outside, and then it closes. It was the last time I would ever use that keypad to close the garage on a school morning. Repetition and familiarity had somehow made this mundane action sacred between the garage door and I.
The day went on with more and more “lasts”: the last time being late to first period, the last first period, the last time seeing Mr. Geschke as a student, the last high school “break,” the last time Mr. Aucoin would lecture us about our apathy and procrastination in studying for tests, the last time he would break out that Texan accent when he got sassy, the last time a high school teacher would ever chew us out for being lazy (honestly, we deserved it. But we were SSS. No one cared enough that last month.) Then finally, the last bell to dismiss us from school, the last end-of-the-school-year/beginning-of-summer cheer, the last time walking out of that classroom with the group of friends I’d made while struggling through music theory with them.
All of these “lasts” kept going through my mind and I kept worrying that I wasn’t cherishing this moments enough and I was focusing so hard on remembering the position everyone in the classroom, the things people were saying, trying to take a living picture with my mind – I mean, shouldn’t the last of anything associated with high school, my life for the past four years, make me feel the least bit sentimental? (And no, I was definitely not one of those “I’m so glad I’m finally getting out of this shithole” type of people. I really appreciated my time at Mission.) Yet I couldn’t figure out what made these moments so important. Sure, I would never sit down in a high school chair again, never ask permission from Mr. Gomez to use the restroom to meet up with friends… but so what? The absence of this busy, bustling forum I was standing in will not impact on my life or anyone else’s; we’ll all forget this and get over it in about a week, and the hazy, timeless ocean of summer will envelop us and we’ll be somewhere else. In fact, some of the “last” things that were going through my mind were so contrived as to make them truly idiotic – “the last time I’ll see Officer Pipp at school in the bell tower quad in these shoes at 2:55PM with this many days without shaving while the World Cup is being played in Brazil,” for example – I wanted my last day at high school to be memorable and special, but it was all so fake and contrived.
So I was struggling with this – realizing that the prospect of uprooting repetition and familiarity somehow made mundane actions sacred, but without a rational cause. Was it because everyone else was enjoying their last day, and I wanted to enjoy it with them? Was it because I’ve been too influenced by movies that always make “lasts” more romantic than they really are? Or am I just afraid of change? I couldn’t satisfactorily pin down why I was feeling sentimental and yet apathetic at the same time.
January 9, 2015
My friend –
Let me tell you what you already knew.
You did a great job remembering everything, especially that music theory classroom. I still remember where Young Jin and Alex and Kelly and Adrienne and ZiZi and Anna and Pranav and Allen used to sit, and that one game of Tank Wars you played with Young Jin. I don’t remember exact words from that day, but you did such a good job preserving each person’s personality – I can still imagine how Mr. Aucoin would react to you if you told him you’d like to use the restroom in the middle of his lecture.
Here’s a fact of life: Time speeds up. At least, it feels that way. I’m already done with my first quarter of college and it feels like I left home yesterday. So many things have happened in these last 12 weeks that I can remember barely anything important at all. I’d have to go look back at my calendar to jog my memory, but the nuances, the small moments? Gone. If they’re not remembered, they cease to exist.
It wasn’t always this way – sixth grade was positively monolithic in how long it felt, how many significant things happened. Our memories feel richer when we’re younger because we aren’t rushed – we notice every detail and unconsciously appreciated things more – just like you were trying to do on that last day of school.
I want to remember these important things. Memory allows us to examine our life in that memory. The content of our memories define how we view ourselves and how we view what we can and can’t do in the future. Humans have this deep instinctual desire to understand their identity and memory is a key part of that process.
That’s why lasts are important. When we’re transitioning between major eras in our lives, we have a few valuable moments before we change to take in and process all we know about the era we’re about to pass out of. Those last golden memories of music theory and high school, preserved through your intentional memorization of small facts, serves me now as a “key” in memory that reminds me of so many other things important in their own right that would otherwise have been forgotten: which direction you’d walk out of the classroom to meet up with Jonathan for those memorable walks home, the direction you came to the classroom from Physics with Geschke where you were so proud of yourself for making the mousetrap car, the songs everyone played at the beginning of the year on the piano, the satisfaction of finishing homework in class the same day it’s assigned, and so on.
I remember walking away from the garage door and looking around and taking the feeling of my weight-less shoulders, the birds chirping in the crisp morning air, the entire atmosphere pregnant with the possibility of a perfect summer day. A time with no worries, and four years of the unknown waiting for you 800 miles away in sunny San Diego, but only after the longest summer you’ve ever had filled with hanging out with friends, getting back in shape, experiencing new literature and movies, and so much more.
It’s a safe haven for when I ruminate. I remember, and I know myself better for it.