The Harbinger Online

Positive Separation

“You can’t go back to East. We visited a boarding school in Ohio over the weekend. We think it’s the best place for you right now.”

I was shocked. My parents were visiting me at rehab. I had been there for a week and a half, expecting to go back to public school after I finished the two-week program. I was hoping to get back to the life that I knew, not to start a new one in a completely different state. Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 9.49.17 AM

But there was little I could do. Their minds were made up. I felt betrayed. Why would my parents have a son if they were just going to send him away? I admit I was acting out and wasn’t applying myself. But had I really made enough mistakes to merit being shipped off to boarding school?

I was left with these questions when I arrived at the institution in mid September, and those doubts lingered, keeping me from moving forward. Grand River Academy is an all boys’ college prep school in northeast Ohio, located an hour outside of Cleveland, near Lake Erie. Thirty percent of the students are international; my roommate was Chinese. Other high school students came from all around the country, many having difficulties with the conventional public school system. At GRA, things were almost always supervised. You were told what to do and when to do it.

You had to ask an adult to do essentially everything. You couldn’t even walk across the street without getting permission. This drove me insane; I felt imprisoned. The first few months of the school year I was calling my mom every day: breaking down on the phone, pleading with her to allow me to come back home. I hadn’t even tried to adapt to my surroundings or try to fit in. I didn’t think I would be there long. I thought my parents would give in. They didn’t.

I went home for the first time in October for a few days. I felt so alienated and disconnected from my friends. It didn’t feel right. I felt like I no longer had a home.

Everyone at home was doing the same things, enjoying life. I felt the complete opposite. I was removed from my home both geographically and emotionally. I was in a place completely foreign and I didn’t want to assimilate. Even though GRA helped bump up my grades, every other aspect of my life was suffering.

I was constantly reminding myself of the difficult circumstances I was subjected to, blaming my parents for everything. After awhile I realized that feeling sorry for myself and holding grudges wouldn’t help me move forward and find happiness. I was in a rut. I didn’t want to adapt because I was stuck in the past and I didn’t want to accept that I would be there until the end of the school year. I didn’t want to make the best out of a bad situation, and that held me back.

After months of continuous depravity, I accepted my situation and surrendered to my circumstances. I started making friends because it would make the time go by faster if I had some people to share the boarding school experience with. I was with them constantly. They became like my brothers. We did everything together: lived together, studied together, ate together. I still hadn’t come to terms with being sent there, but it was more bearable. I look back on these friends as some of the closest I’ve ever had.

I also became more independent while living at boarding school. We were responsible for cleaning our rooms and doing our laundry. We were on a consistent schedule every day of the week. My life at home lacked structure and rather than being resentful I was thankful for a change of pace. I at first didn’t like the rigidness, but it turned out to be very beneficial. I got more done and experienced less stress.

After learning to accept my situation, I was finally able to find peace of mind. I still wasn’t satisfied by where I was, but I had learned to bear with it and make the best out of a less than ideal situation. Happiness isn’t dependent on location. God would never give me anything I couldn’t handle.

That being said, I came back home in May with high expectations. I expected a grand homecoming. I was disappointed when I didn’t receive one; I felt forgotten. But then I remembered what I learned in boarding school: to make the best out of every circumstance. I learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I learned that life isn’t fair and nothing is permanent. Everything changes, no matter how much you want it to stay the same.

Because of boarding school, I can now move forward with resolve and confidence. No matter what obstacles are placed in my path, I can overcome and triumph in the face of adversity. My relationship with my parents has also improved significantly since I no longer hold any ill will towards them for their decision.

Now I have a better understanding of why they said those words to me that day at rehab.

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Will Brownlee

Will is a senior at East and a recent convert to Islam. Read Full »

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