The Harbinger Online

Senior Column: Grant Heinlein, Co-Photo-Editor

Grant Heinlein

Position: Co-Photo-Editor

College: Rhode Island School of Design

Major: Undecided




Vigorously pushing the blue gym doors ajar, I brace myself for the frigid breeze of mid-December. I sprint towards my father’s car, desperately hoping that my flowing tears won’t freeze to my ever-so-juvenile face. Opening the passenger-side door, I throw my bag into the back and close myself in, escaping the winter storm that is swiftly approaching. Absorbed by the depths of my seat, I sob silently for the fifteen-minute ride home.

“Why does it have to be like this?” I murmur under my breath over and over again until we arrive in the frozen driveway. Running inside, I drop my things and collapse on my parent’s bed, sobbing to the point of muteness. Never before had I thought that a simple nickname from basketball practice could break me down to the point that it did.

Freshman year was tearing me apart. But in its own unique way, it was slowly inching me near a life-changing experience. I spent the year immersed in self-doubt, second-guessing life each and every day, but through my struggles I discovered my place on this earth; something I had yearned for greatly.

High school started off about as well as was possible. Within a few months, I somehow managed to score a date to Homecoming and make the cut for this beloved school’s overly competitive freshman basketball team, accomplishments in the least. Unfortunately, the naiveté of freshman year soon subsided. Being on the team was painfully difficult; I was made fun of with a flagrant disregard for my feelings, causing me to cry myself to sickness. I was weak. Life was a struggle, something I refused to deal with.

Trudging my way through the school year, I longed for a glimmer of hope, which I deemed nearly impossible until my arrival at an earnest summer camp in Durango, Colorado.

Going to camp was my last ditch effort to regain the life I once had years before the daunting halls of high school. While there, I escaped from reality for thirteen days, left technology behind as I buried myself in the woods, and attempted to regain my identity. I did. For the longest time I had focused on being popular, trying to fit into the stereotypical mold. I donned the attire, inherited the crude humor, and eventually forgot all about life as a whole. Each person in this world is created differently; we are unique to our bodies and minds. Attempting to conform to the ways of my peers was only tearing me from myself.

Walking into class with my newly found headband and TOMS, I returned to school for my sophomore year only to be coined the “indie” one. I had cared so much previously about what my peers thought of me, but suddenly none of their words stuck. The incessant use of the word felt like an insult, but I learned to take it as a compliment, noting that I was finally discovering myself in the truest of forms. I explored new passions through artwork, constantly inspired by the shapes and smells of nature. My friendships at school resumed, and conversations rekindled. New friends, too, were established, and I forgave my teammates from the previous year. My life was finally beginning to make sense; I saw a true and bright future for myself, and worked diligently to accomplish the goals I set for the coming school year.

Shawnee Mission East has forced me to grow in ways that I never would have expected. I’ve gone through stages where I just wanted to turn my back and keep to myself. It took me three years to find my fit among the student body. The feeling was obvious once I experienced it. And to constantly say that high school wasn’t for me, or that I was just waiting for the next step in entering college, was to miss out on the chance to experience something great – something that changed the way I viewed the world.

I’m not attempting to say that I have everything figured out, but rather that I believe that I understand what is truly important in this life and the days to come. Popularity will absolutely get you places, but I don’t want to live artificially, constantly searching for the approval of others. I want to make my own path. Life is carved out of problems and surprises, each awaiting my discovery.


View Grant’s Final Say video feature here.

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