Class of 2008
I believe in enjoying the journey, and then looking back on what happens as a result.
As a teenager, I found it a paradox that people living through slavery or economic depression could put up such a fight in life, while I who had everything given to me—food, clothing, water, shelter—could so often feel anguished on the edge of uselessness and purpose.
Part of it had to do with my age, being a teenager was a unique time of my life where I especially struggled with what feels like a clichéd question: What is the meaning of my life? And a second part of it I believe has to do with requiring a struggle or fight that is meaningful as a human.
While in high school I would feel powerless when learning about poverty, starvation or freedom rights struggles in nations across the globe. In contrast, as an adult I have been provided avenues to interact with these communities watch change in these situations. Specifically, in and after college I have had the opportunity to do research projects in South Africa, Mozambique, Nicaragua and India through aid scholarships and grants.
While on the ground, I found that even though people abroad may have less tangible goods than me, they can actually be happier than me because of living in close-knit communities or having the privilege of working in nature daily, engaging the wide-range of the human body on farmland. In contrast, I might have found myself seated in front of a laptop screen for the majority of my day.
Making it through the unique four years of high school has had to do with luck--I have been blessed in family and friends--as well as art and learning, and also spending time in nature, listening to birds, hugging trees or smelling the grass.
As I look back undoubtedly a positive influence on me in high school was close friends I could relate to. I developed the type of friends that if I was with them, I was happy, so what anyone else thought did not matter. Friends and family took the pressure off me for caring too much about boys or other anxieties and allowed me to be more carefree in my choices, whether it was clothing--making and wearing my own clothes or voicing my opinions in class, especially starting debates about religion.
Honestly, I enjoyed every topic I studied in school maybe because I had some of the best and smartest teachers, taking as many Honors and Advanced Placement courses I could. Classes that stood out to me were studying World Civilizations, English, Art and also I loved the sciences. Sometimes I wanted nothing more than time to read my Biology textbook—I loved learning about how life originated in the ocean and how the unique exponential growth and evolution of humans contrasted with other species in evolution.
However, something I have found that could be practiced more, especially in Science and Math classes is student-centered learning, where students are viewed as containing their own set of knowledge that they can share, instead of as empty containers a teacher then fills. I found this already implemented in Art and English classes, which is what made them a joy for me.
As a student I did feel pressure on making the right grades to get into the best colleges. To students in school I want to shout that this pressure is not unique—just get through junior high, or just through high school—this pressure is even more intense in college, and can easily carry into your job or graduate school.
Now that I have age and experience on my side I know that all this talk about the future is pretty unhealthy, especially when you can’t even know if you will make it to the next day. For me this is because, firstly, the complex functions happening inside the human body are a daily miracle. And secondly, you never know what the future might bring.
Since there is no guarantee of tomorrow, would not time be better spent today thinking about what we could do or what we could change to find happiness? I wish more students spent more time thinking about what makes them happy now and pursuing that.
Your “dream job” in high school could be transformed by the time you graduate. And in fact, a “dream job” is a moving target. There might be a field you are interested in, and so first you are a student of it, then an employee, then a consultant, then an entrepreneur, then a writer, and then a teacher. While the label of doctor or engineer carriers with it value, and it is always a good idea to have a plan, how your education or skills end up finding purposes in the world is not something that can be imagined ahead of time and can take a shape more beautiful or complex than can be matched by a label or degree.
I find myself living moment-to-moment, believing in enjoying the journey, and then looking back on what happens as a result. I would like to challenge the philosopher Machiavelli whom I studied in high school who is attributed to saying “the ends justify the means.” Where I am today, I reject this notion and wonder what the world would look like if everyone instead spent their energy on enjoying the journey and searching for what makes them happy. I wonder if it would look more sustainable.
I would like to conclude with a statement of how proud I am to be a graduate of Fairfax County Public Schools. My particular high school is not unique in the type of events that have occurred recently. What is unique is the community’s vocal reaction, rising through pain and stigma. In remembering the ones we have lost, we represent a community that is compassionate, brave, and proactive.
You are not alone. Together we can be resilient. However, this website is not to be used in place of therapy or other forms of help. Non-judgmental help is available 24-7: Call Crisis Link at 1-800-273-TALK(8255). Text with a Crisis Text Line specialist, by texting “TALK” to 741-741. (You can also go to your nearest emergency room or call 911.)
You can also chat online with a specialist at CrisisChat.org (between 2pm and 2am) or ImAlive.org. Many other links to various types of assistance are also available on our RESOURCES page. Help is out there. Reach out, for yourself, or for someone else.