Position: A&E Page Editor
College: University of Kansas
I wanted to sleep, but the voices wouldn’t let me — the voices inside my head. They poured over my every misstep of the day; every moment where I should have spoken up, but instead sat idly by without so much as a whimper.
When my friend told me that he had to cancel our plans for a family dinner.
I know that you’re just ditching me for so-and-so.
But I don’t want you to know that I’ve got no one else to hang out with.
When an unruly customer cursed at me after holding up my line 30 minutes.
“Have a nice day, sir!”
I want to beat you with a pillowcase full of batteries.
But I need this job.
And when my mom asked me, “How was your day?”
“It was great, Mom.”
She worked her way through school as an orphaned Mexican immigrant. She doesn’t need to hear about your petty teenage problems. No one needs to hear this.
Not even me.
My sweaty palms grapple for the scuffed iTouch at my bedside; I shove the buds into my ears, tap the “Cheer Up” playlist and crank the volume as loud as it will go. But blasting “Let it Be” at deafening tones won’t drown out the voices.
If you fall asleep right now, you can still get three hours. That’s enough for the school day.
It was enough.
I went to school because it’s the law. I wasn’t there to learn or grow or make friends or memories or decisions or improve myself as a person. I took regular classes because I could pull out an A without ever cracking a book, saying a word or looking at the teacher. I kept the same friends I’d had since elementary school because I was scared of talking to new people. I went to school so I could grab a diploma without anyone ever noticing I was there.
I didn’t want them to notice me. I didn’t want them to notice that I was actually smart and talented and capable — and be disappointed that I was too scared to do anything with my potential. And most of all, I didn’t want them to notice that I was disappointed in myself.
I had endured the loneliness and disappointment for most of sophomore year, but I reached my breaking point. After losing ground in my year-long struggle with pneumonia, I found myself in a hospital bed. And I guess I got my wish:
No one even knew I was there.
With the exception of my immediate family and one good friend, I was on my own. The table in my hospital room wasn’t full of get well cards, balloons and fruit baskets. It was just a table. Because the voices in my head wouldn’t dare escape to tell a soul how scared I was, and how much I needed someone to listen.
I want to be happy. I want to be heard.
I started out small. I enrolled in all AP classes for my junior year and was pleasantly surprised that I could still get straight A’s without much struggle. I met new friends who practically forced me into joining Harbinger. And after that, I was never quiet again.
I fell in love with opinion writing. I had always felt strongly about racism and its close ties to immigration laws, but never had the fortitude to speak my mind. So I wrote a column on it. After I was unjustly fired from the hardware store — I wrote a column on it. And when I wanted to thank the role models in my life — my parents and coach — I wrote a column for them too.
I started broadcasting basketball for Harbinger Online soon after joining staff. At first, I stumbled and stuttered my way through games. But I gradually developed a distinctive swagger in my voice — what had once been my greatest fear had become my greatest asset. I demanded to be heard.
Reader, I’m not afraid to tell you that I’m impressed with myself because I’m not afraid to tell you anything. I’m not afraid to portray my sophomore self as a sadsack, an emotionally-arrested wreck. I’m not afraid to tell you how happy I am now — I have great friends, a supportive family and the most beautiful girlfriend in the world who legitimately cares about everything I have to say. And I’m not afraid that you won’t like my senior column. Because this is my voice and it matters to me.