In June, I officially graduated from high school. We all had our doubts, I know, but I came out on top with the 4.28 GPA and the 7th highest rank in my class of 271. And to make life even better, a couple months before that, I started dating the girl of my dreams. She's headed to UCLA in the Fall. Oh, and yeah, college - I'm going to UC Berkeley. Sooooo that's rad.
|She's the one on the left, by the way.|
This week, one of my teachers from elementary and middle school reached out to me with the picture below, with the description, "When you were in the 4th grade, you drew me an 'S,' and I told you I would keep it forever. You were kind of annoyed at the moment I asked you to draw me one. But, you took your time even though you didn't want to, so it's always been kind of a life example for me." Until recently, in a conversation with my girlfriend (who has, and continues, to enlighten my mind and enrapture my own life), I never realized that I'd impacted anyone's life, or had ever been suitable as an example. I figured that I was a normal high school kid, although I rode bikes and climbed rocks instead of going to football games or rocking it at parties. When my teacher sent me that message, I was blown away - I always looked up to others and never really examined myself and my own accomplishments.
|For some weird reason, as a fourth grader, I totally dug calligraphy.|
So, I guess you can say that the gravity of my situation and impending entrance into real life came when one of my life-long role models opened up to me about the gravity of his own situation, undoubtedly a little heavier than my own (thanks Mr. Gallick, for teaching me about the gravitational constant, by the way. I hated your class but it challenged me like no class ever has). Enter my brother Andrew, the morning that he's to fly to Boulder, CO to start his new career. Less than a month before, he graduated from RIT with a double engineering degree. You could say he's kind of smart and kind of probably has his life together...a little bit. Since we were kids, I've admired Andrew's ability to appear so nonchalant yet accomplish so much. We are five years apart, so I've always seen him as more of an adult than as the kid that he really is. As I drove him to the airport that morning, though, he looked at me and told me that he was scared - his life had been going to class and playing waterpolo, and, in college, going to class and climbing rocks. Now, he explained, his life would be going to the same job every day for at least a couple of years. He'd no longer have a choice in class, he'd have a career - he'd be an adult. And, by all observations, this alarmed him.
|He seriously does this everywhere we go now. Honestly the most bearded kid on the planet.|
When I learned that somebody who had affected me so profoundly was scared to confront his future, it made me stop and think about where I'd been and where I was going. Suddenly, I was alarmed about my own future - how the hell am I supposed to graduate from a UC in 4 years? What am I going to do with all that debt?! ...what do I even want to do with my life? Everything is so impermanent, yet, paradoxically, so long lasting and consequential.
Then that teacher sent me that message and my worries about the future kind of melted away. I've been chugging along to my own tempo for years, and I think that same tempo will keep me rolling all the way into adulthood. Whether I become the foremost plant biologist this world has ever seen or decide to live out of a van, after long hours of tedious empirical observation, I don't think I'll ever have anything to worry about. I think I have a pretty good handle on who I am and who I want to be, and, it seems to have worked thus far. I guess all that careful reflection just brought me back to myself, and I guess that's how it should be.
Plus, today, I rode my bike. Talk about affirmation of life choices.
|"This is nourishing and redemptive." -David Foster Wallace|