I once saw myself to be a bystander in no one else’s story. I was there, obsolete, silent, watching the world unfold around me, witnessing what my peers were experiencing, but not having any of that for myself. I was tired of being a supporting role in my own life, adding to other people’s conversations, assisting people when they might need it, but never bringing anything to the table myself.
I didn’t feel like I had any identity as an individual, I relied on the people around me to define who I was and I hated it, I couldn’t stand the fact that when I was alone, I knew nothing about myself that was uniquely mine, that I had created a version of my self that was only a convoluted mosaic of the people I associated myself with.
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t entirely a unique individual. That although I had a mixture of physical traits that made me intriguing, I didn’t have the personality that supported that. I realized it was fine to inherit these traits from those around you but to keep an eye on what those are.
I found myself adopting unhealthy mentalities that I drew from those I looked up to, these forced me to reflect heavily upon what I had become, I was no longer true to myself, I became a canvas upon which my peers could splash their negativity, and I would mindlessly carry it around, displaying it for everyone to see.
It took me a long time to rid myself of the bad habits I had accumulated. I was alright with adopting traits from other people that I respected, I realized that that process is fundamental to our growth as individuals and not detrimental to it as I had originally thought. I realized instead that the issue I had was that I was adopting traits that I didn’t like in an attempt to somehow further my personal development without considering the fallout of these actions.
I love Diet Pepsi. If I order a food delivery, a 2-liter Diet Pepsi will definitely be in it. But lately, I’ve announced farewell to it.
Looking at a can of Diet Pepsi, it’s the word “Diet” that will capture your eyes. It means no sugar is in Pepsi. In other words, Diet Pepsi has zero-calories. It means you can feel guilt-free when drinking a can of soda, it means you can drink ten cans of Diet Pepsi and still stay in shape… but it also means cancer.
Cancer? Yes, cancer. Like I said, Diet Pepsi is sugar-free. However, the Pepsi company replaces the sugar with a kind of sweetener called aspartame. Studies on aspartame have shown that the use of aspartame can increase the chance for an individual to get blood-related cancers.
On the Diet Pepsi company’s response to the studies on aspartame was replacing aspartame with other non-sugar sweeteners. This alone shows the dangers aspartame triggers. However, most Diet Pepsi I see out there still state the use of aspartame. While I’m no professional in studying sweeteners or the soda industry, I do care about my own longevity. And honestly, even if they use another kind of sweetener in soda, I don’t think I can trust its safety anymore. That’s why I’ve decided to stay off the product.
Looking at all those soda cans, with labels like “sugar-free,” “caffeine-free” or “aspartame-free”… I have a question for all of us—why not just free yourself by drinking water?
I’ve started this draft several times. I’ve written sentences and sentences only to change them, revise them, and, eventually, just completely eradicate them and end where I started: with nothing. Because every time I try to write about this, I can’t formulate the right words to say. Even though I’ve discovered at OVS that one of my biggest passions is writing, I’m speechless when I try to write about what these last four years meant to me.
When I came to OVS for the first time, I was an awkward freshman. I had no friends, no idea what I was doing, and no idea who I was or who I wanted to be.
The four years to follow threw me in for a loop of highs and lows in self development, friendships, and life. Now I have just a couple days until the craziest, most amazing four years of my life come to an end. Every year at this time, I had a strong desire for the days to end as quickly as possible so I could enjoy my summer break. This time, I’m scared for the inevitable last day of school to come. I’m holding on to every last second I can.
I’ve been to three graduations here. Every single one making me sadder than the rest, but there was always happiness in my heart when I’d hug my friends goodbye for the summer, especially because I knew I’d see them again. On May 31st, I’ll hug all my friends, but, when fall rolls around, I won’t see them again on the hill that’s been my second home for the past four years. We’ll all be scattered across the country taking on different cities and pursuing different passions. We won’t see each other at breakfast every morning or at the barn at the end of every day. We’ll see each other through FaceTime calls and at reunions during our holiday breaks. I’m bound to cry at graduation because of it all.
I’m happy we’re all going to colleges we want to go to and I know that these friends are the ones I’ll have for life. But the realization that this is our last week as high schoolers together is still sending a wave of shock over me that I’ve been drowning in the past couple weeks.
I’m horrified for what the future holds, but, at the same time, I feel so ready. Four years ago, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be ready for college and eight years ago I didn’t have any faith that I would even be going to college. Now, I’m excited to walk into the unknown and I have OVS to thank for it all:
For being a school that’s given me the opportunity to branch out and try everything I could ever want to try. I didn’t have to stick to one niche. I got to be a risk-taking athlete, an unfiltered writer, a confident leader, and everything in between.
The equestrian program for giving me a horse I love more than myself. For giving me a place I’ve made my best friends.
The camping trips where I went running through the Yosemite forests at night time with no flashlight and rode the bull of the raft while river rafting on the Kern trip. For making me push my limits and having them turn out to be the most rewarding moments of my life. For making me realize I love camping even though I hate going days without showering.
For my AP Spanish class making me fall in love with the language all over again and decide to study abroad in Spain instead of France. Law/Gov class that furthered my excitement to move to D.C. to study politics and intern on Capitol Hill. Especially for my journalism class that provided a source of gossip, a place to rant, and an endless supply of snacks, but more importantly, it has given me an outlet to explore writing and inspire me to pursue it in college.
Thank you for everything. For the good, the bad, and everything in between. No words could say it all.
I’m not gonna lie and say this school is perfect. There’s so much I’ve complained about and so many things I would change. But if I’m going to be honest, it was perfect for me. It was the place I needed for the kind of person I was to become who I am today. I had no idea what my purpose was or what my passions were and, while I’m still on a road of self-discovery, OVS put me on the right path.
Usually when I don’t know what to write about, I make some sort of list of things that make me happy, things that calm me down, things that remind me of home. But it seems like I’ve run out of ideas for positive lists like that, so here’s a list of things I hate:
trash in nature
when people are rude to the cashier
watching cocky people win
watching pretty much anyone other than my team win
not having any socks left
being left on read
feeling like you have to sneeze but not being able to sneeze
In middle school, I was in a friend group with all girls and sometimes I think that was the happiest I’ve ever felt and sometimes I think those were the best friends I’ve ever had.
We did everything together: went to Palm Springs, got ready for stupid dances, cried together, more often laughed together, and sang together.
Everything we could do together, we did.
I remember being so sad when they graduated and went off to high school because I was left behind without the people I have grown so close to. I was also sad because I knew that we would never be as close as we used to be. I was right.
After middle school, some of us went to public school, some of us went to the expected high school, some of us started at the expected high school and switched, and one of us didn’t even go to high school in the same town.
Fast forward three years, I am a sophomore and they are juniors. I knew we would be different, but not this different.
Don’t get me wrong, change isn’t always a bad thing. It’s just different, and, more than usual lately, it’s been scaring me.
I don’t want to lose my people, but sometimes i’m afraid I’ve already lost them .
Sometimes I worry about them a lot and sometimes a little less.
Sometimes I get sad when I hear one of them did something big I had no idea about.
Sometimes I make myself so nervous I start shaking.
Sometimes I realize how selfish I am, but, sometimes, most of the time, it all comes down to: I wish that in a room full of people, we would still go to each other first.
Thirteen years is a long time for a seventeen year old – and I have been here for thirteen years.
I’ll be honest there is certainly a dissociative sense of gladness that I’ll finally be seeing a change of scenery, a change in pace. It is easy to say, “God am I glad to be moving on,” it is easy to think that I’m ready and really don’t care all that much. It is easy to look at these past thirteen years and think of only the things I’m ready and willing to give up.
It is not easy however to look back on the past four years, the past seven, all the years and think of all that I’m leaving behind. It is not easy to leave with honesty, with neither hell nor rose tint. I won’t say that the past years, high school in particular were perfect – I have nothing to compare them to, I won’t say they were terrible either – they weren’t.
It’s odd to think about, even odder to try to put into words the sort of feelings I have about moving onto the next part of whatever future awaits me, because in part there is a sort of cold readiness to just leave but in equal part there is a desperate need to hold on, to dig my heals in, to continue to put my nose to the grindstone so I don’t feel the inevitable sense of loss.
It is undeniable that who I am is inescapably tied to these past years and I wonder everyday if I have the strength to untether myself from that. All my heart strings are tangled up and confused as to what to do in these last days – run as fast as I can home where I can rest and pretend like I’m already gone or stick around and grow melancholy realizing that it is the last time that I will be as I am where I am – realizing that these are the last moments for me to see my teachers as the teachers whose classes I used to know I would inevitably show up in again next year, sleep deprived and more than a little black-mooded.
Is it strange that I feel so much and nothing at all? Is it weird that I can’t find it in myself to reminisce like a bad made for TV movie with an even worse soundtrack? Is it weird that I can’t find the strength to tell my friends that I love them now in case we naturally fall into radio silence? Is it weird that I can’t find the ability to say thank you to the teachers who have built me?
I’m not sure how to put it all together. How to show the the people who deserve my thanks and love just how thankful I am and how much love I have for them. I’m not sure how to say goodbye to the place and people who have been my entire world for 76% of my life. Thirteen years is a lot of “stuff” and people to say goodbye to and I don’t think I’ll ever really be ready for that, but in three days I will have to anyway.
It is not a goodbye forever but it is a forever goodbye to the safety and essence of what those years have been.
I almost inevitably will cry June 1, I’m not ready for that. On June 1, even if I don’t say it outright, I hope that everyone from the past thirteen years understands that I am eternally thankful and that, selfishly, it may hurt me too much to try to say it to their faces.
So let me say it now, in the likely event that I can’t say it later:
Thank you for all the years, for the good, the mediocre, the not so good, for everything.
The light filtering into the kitchen was the type of gray-white light that made her glow like a goddess. She was fastidiously picking through a bowl of cereal for the fruit, too focused to really care about the food. He came and placed a hand on her shoulder, stilling her arm, he tiptoed his fingers across her collarbone to her other shoulder and pulled her in, his bicep laying gently across the top of her t-shirt, his hand idly playing with the hem of her sleeve.
It was still chilly outside and he could see a mist drifting by the window, the grass looked like blades of pure emerald. Rich and dark, sharp in comparison to the fogged and blurred weather. He glanced down into the grass under the window, he could just see the tale of a garden snake, he had begun to think of it as his pet this last month, disappearing into the grass. He tapped her twice on the arm.
“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the right words,” she hummed.
As the weather had warmed she had grown colder and colder. The spread of tingling embers that always started in her ribs and shoulders, that radiated out when he was near her, faded into cool pinpricks, like rain or snow. The clock had ticked out the final seconds: tick, mine; tock, mine; tick, mi– and then it was gone, the ticking of the clock was gone. They were no longer tied together, something no longer felt right.
So she found a way to say goodbye.
He knew he shouldn’t. But he did.
He couldn’t help it. He had to look at her one last time, to look back on her like he always had, if only he could have walked the road in time, he could have let the music of what tied them together play as a reminder that she was there, she was real, she was his. But he had to stop — look.
Today she was in white — she never wore white — mourning. She was frozen mid-stride, a raindrop stopped just upon impact with her nose. He reached out and hugged her fiercely, angrily. Wildfire’s searing nails dragged down every nerve in his body. If only he hadn’t looked. If only — he stared at her eyes: cool, unwavering, timeless. He bent down to her —
He was back in the doorway his back to her, turning away. He tried to spin back, feeling like reality had finally slowed to meet him. He turned just in time to watch helplessly as she slipped away, pulled by an unseen force.
She placed the mug in front of him, she was warm just looking at him, it had been like that since the beginning. She could still remember all the steps to the dance that got them here: all the cups of coffee, all the late night fry runs.
She could still remember what he was wearing the first time they had brushed hands and it felt like a powerline had hit her. He had been in a pair of well fit light-wash jeans and a plain white t-shirt, next to her heavy boots his were stylish and sleek.
She could remember the first time she realized that just looking at him could make her blush. Just seconds ago, she had been staring out the window at him thinking she was going to burn up just knowing that he was hers.
As she sat down though, everything ran cold, her blush fell from her face faster than a spring thunderstorm. It felt as if all her blood had sunk into her feet, leaving the rest of her shivering and pale. She looked away from him, a cold finger running down her spine. Her heart jumped as if just shocked back to life, sluggish and uncomfortable.
In an attempt to warm herself, she brought her mug to her lips and the steam felt cool. Looking over at him didn’t warm her; that molten flame in her chest was guttering. She pressed her lips together as she gently placed the mug back onto the table with a small tap.
She could feel the breath in her chest jump and stumble a little, it wasn’t the normal hitch she got being near him. She lifted her mug again and let the warming steam brush its hands, like his, across her cheeks and nose. She took another sip of her coffee — bitter. She looked up at him — sweet.
She put the mug down again, warmth returning to her fingers, wondering what he would look like come rainy season in the spring. Would he wear that pair of soft, fit-as-if-tailored-specifically-for-him jeans with the tear in the knees? Would he wear that black sweatshirt she so desperately had wanted to steal, would he wear the sleek black jacket, that she loved on him, over it all?
She didn’t know how they were going to reach that point, but she knew they would. Her heart beat a little faster just thinking about it, but then it skipped like it hadn’t quite been beating in rhythm. She was still cold.
He murmured something, pulling her out of her thoughts, “Hmmm?” She responded.
He looked bashfully introspective. She watched him glance up again, with a warm glow in his face, following the trails of steam, a spaceship, into space, finding her eyes in the dark of space, staring at him cooly, like frozen stars.
“I love you,” he whispered across the planet, with oceans of coffee, beneath them.
She blushed gently, the flame in her ribcage sparked and gained strength slowly, an ember being coaxed back into full warmth.
“I love you too,” she whispered back. An umbrella offered against the snow.
She grinned at him then, content to just look at him as the clock ticked away the seconds somewhere within the cafe. She watched the easy fluidness of his movements as he leaned forward to grab his coffee mug. She watched and painted the angles of his arms as he took a drink, she followed his gaze as he looked past the awning.
He was staring at the pale sun just beginning to show its face through the cloud layer, the snow persisted in small delicate wisps that turned to messy slush on the pavement. She couldn’t help but wonder what went through his head, as he watched the sun slowly appear as if dabbed into existence on a pale, gray background.
She looked away from him then, and looked back into the window of the cafe toward the clock that was adding up their time. Adding up the time that he was hers, another second, another minute, another hour, all hers.
She didn’t even need to look at him head-on to know how the light shining through the clouds lay on his face, making his skin look soft and downy; to know how the bridge of his nose, the center and peaks of his lips, his chin, the very tips of his eyelashes, his gently sloped forehead, and his cheekbones, sloped up, were all glowing with snowy light, like painted lines of adoration.
She looked at him then, at those lines of Olympian light tracing his face like her fingertips. He was looking at her, though, out of the corner of his eye, not at the sun, not out at the world in front of him, he was looking at her.
She placed a steaming mug in front of him on the chipped mosaic table. He could see her hips, just at table height and just below the bottom of her large jacket. As she moved to slide into her seat across from him, her scarf drifted away from her body, offering a silvery black contrast to the white atmosphere.
He looked up, taking advantage of the frozen moment. Just behind her, outside of the awning, the snow hung suspended and the people braving the weather were stopped mid-step, mid-word. The steam curling out of his mug was frozen, cloudy glass.
Thinking back in this pocket of non-time, he could not quite remember the steps he had taken to reach this point. How exactly had he begun a conversation between the two of them, or had he not started the conversation at all?
He could remember they had met in a pocket of Indian Summer, he could remember what song had been playing, “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” — Arcade Fire, he could remember what she had been wearing, a pair of cuffed denim shorts and a burnt-orange t-shirt, a messy ponytail and a pair of well worn sneakers. He couldn’t remember, however, most of the rest of it.
He started at her feet. She was wearing heavy-soled boots, that despite their size did nothing to make her feet seem clownish. Her socks barely peaked from the stiff tops, a light grey knit line-break between the black boots and the black jeans, undoubtedly worn over another layer. He could see her blue-black sweater peeking out below the hem of her jacket, flaring out a little bit.
He continued upward, taking in the puffy jacket that dwarfed her, her hand – frozen midway to her pocket. He paused just a second longer to take in the fall of the jacket, the stolen movement of her arms, the way that her fingers curled around her own mug, the uneven crescent moons of her fingernails.
How had he gotten here? How had he gotten to the point where he could just stare at her and that would be enough? How had he moved from point A to point B? From seeing her serve coffee in a small hole-in-the-wall cafe, to not wanting to miss a single minutiae?
He looked over the folds of her scarf, piled high on her neck, he watched the shadows fall rightly. He followed the fuzz of the scarf upwards to her neck where a flush had crept up toward her face. He followed her jawline from right to left. Her lips —
She slid into her seat and her scarf fell back into place against her torso. The snow fell, again. All the frozen mid-steps became the movement of the next. He jumped a bit, a shiver riding up his spine. The milky glass above his mug had once again become nothing but vapor. She brought her mug to her lips and stared out from the awning. Now he could see her breathing, there was a small furrow between her brows.
With time now moving he could feel it, a warmth spreading from his heart outwards, a soft tingle from his eyes was working its way down to his toes, while sparkishly light fingers wound around his shoulder blades and rib cage, he would stop time again just to enjoy the sight of her, to will her to understand everything he felt.
“You are everything,” he whispered, testing how it flew from him into the corporeal world.
“Hmmm?” She hummed.
His words, like ducklings pushed from a nest, fell into the mugs between them, unheard and on their own, paddling away from him. She turned to look at him. He was stunned. Her attention was like a blow to his chest. Her eyes, it was all in her eyes and the small grin that dimpled the left side of her face.
How did he get here? How could so much of him rely on her? He looked down at his mug, at the dark coffee there, the light steam curling out of it. Like coffee and steam: warm, rich, and velvety, that was how they were. Coffee and steam, energy and complement, she was warmth in the cold.
He looked up again, “I love you.”
His words this time flew gently across the mosaic table to land in her mug as she brought it up to drink again, to hopefully bring the flush back to her face.