“I can’t quit Harbinger. If I do, I won’t have anything else.”
I sob this out at 9:43 p.m. on a muggy Wednesday night in September. My parents just look at me as I sit cross-legged on my living room floor. They don’t exactly have an answer, because they know, just like me, that the past two years have been consumed with one thing and one thing only: this publication. From the time someone slid a Harbinger across my desk in my eighth grade english class, I knew I needed to be a part of it. And sometimes, I’d let myself entertain the unfathomable: Someday I’d be in charge of it.
Four years later, I’m editor of the Harbinger. But my biggest dream, my one big goal for high school isn’t what I expected. It feels like my entire life revolves around one singular entity, something that, at the moment, is causing me sleepless nights and immeasurable stress. I visualize coming home like this 14 more times before summer starts. As I pick around a bloodied finger nail, I ask the question I’ll continue to ask for the next ten months.
What’s the point of dreaming?
Fast forward from September to March. After quite a bit of deadline coffee runs and some gritted teeth, Harbinger has transitioned back to feeling like a blessing rather than a curse. But the same question keeps on nagging.
On a Saturday afternoon on Spring Break, in the period of 72 minutes, I’ve received three rejection emails and one wait-list notification. College. The final frontier of education. The capstone of youth. And currently a highly unattainable figment of my once-eager imagination. Upon opening the third rejection and feeling only slightly comforted by the wait list, my mind didn’t spin so much as sink.
Damn me for dreaming. Damn me for getting my hopes up. Damn me for once thinking I was better than anyone, thinking I was elite, or excellent. Despite my highest aspirations I am at most a slightly above-average human. Emphasis on the slightly.
And that’s really how I felt back in September and in March. The crushing pressure of trying to live up to the outlined plan I’d drawn up was consuming me.
If anything to avoid the pain, I wanted to stop dreaming. But that’s not exactly how I work. I don’t like giving in. In fact, I purposely take risks and set too big of goals. I take on too long of hikes, choose to kayak on the choppy days and sign up for the hard stories to write. And in a way, that’s all just like dreaming. Sure, all you can imagine is how the view will look from up top, or how your arms will shake with relief at a midday picnic on the beach, or how your byline will shine above 1,000 careful and complicated words. But by the time you get there, those moments hardly even register.
Dreams aren’t meant to be accomplished, but to be lived.
Once a boat hits the water, I lose myself to an open sea, laughing as a wave crashes and we nearly tip. My favorite hikes are the ones that meander through the woods, when I stop often to nurse blisters and peel through granola bars, falling asleep in a dry creek bed. The excitement of writing happens when I place a paragraph somewhere new and suddenly the story just clicks, or when a source gives me a quote that makes the hairs on my own forearm stick straight up. Not every portion of a journey is blissful, there will always be those moments of terror, unexpected bee stings while climbing, pages crashing and rejection letters.
I didn’t realize until now, my last day of high school, that setting some seemingly unachievable goal wasn’t about the goal at all. Life is nothing to do with the beginning or the end, but everything in the middle. You’re a fool to eat a sandwich for its bread.
Being Editor was some far-off dream, some projection of my 8th grade self. Getting into college was high school’s finish line. So I should feel really good right now. Lead the biggest, most award-winning newspaper in Shawnee Mission East history? Check. Off to the college of my dreams, even after some rejection? Done. But all I feel is grief, because this journey is suddenly ending. I’m putting my paddle away, unlacing my boots and closing up my laptop. But if I’ve learned anything in this place I won’t call home much longer, it’s that I should always, always keep dreaming.