The Harbinger Online

Unquantifiable: Pauline Werner

I graduate in nine days and I’m tucked into bed at 1 p.m. I’m wearing a dirty T-shirt, ready to take the nap I’ve been looking forward to for three days. I try to quiet the hum of everything I’ve crammed into my brain in the last 36 hours so I can get some sleep.

Laying on my back, I stare at a backlit keyboard and a blank Google Doc titled “pauline’s senior column??”

So I count backwards, through years, issues and Internal Assessments in an effort to force high school to end itself in a neat little epiphany. It doesn’t. Of course not.

All I can come up with is the obvious: I’m 18 years old, my IB math test starts in 16 hours, I’m about to finish my forty-eighth Harbinger and I have a senior column to write.

I can try quantify my time at East all day long — four years, six IB tests, three ACTs, 48 issues, three trips to Dallas, two diplomas. But much to my chagrin, I can’t quantify the parts of myself I found along the way, and the way it feels to know that I’ve found my place.

I’ll confess — I didn’t join Harbinger out of some innate passion for journalism. I wasn’t even good at it. I handed in my application for staff writer after getting a C on the Journalism 1 final because I needed to, because I needed a place.

I was 15, and I didn’t know who I was — if you’ll excuse how melodramatic that sounds. I came to East a soccer player. Then I saw my high school soccer career end through tear-filled eyes before it could start when my name didn’t show up on the team roster.

I remember feeling like I was falling out of my place in the world, but Harbinger caught me. I found myself among the stacks of paper, dirty keyboards and mismatched office chairs that would become my second home. The Harbinger took my hand and told me that what I wanted to say mattered, that I didn’t need to keep trying to blend in.

My first story was a truly terrible A&E events preview, but I tore open the issue anyway just to see my name printed above it. I started to revel in the process of self-improvement. Getting back a draft from Tate torn to shreds didn’t feel like a failure so much as a new beginning.

I was looking for an identity to attach myself to when I had none.Instead found a group of people that rejected a group label and followed their own passions — and encouraged me to do the same. I ate from countless paper plates in the fifth floor hallway, I put off transcribing interviews just like everyone else and I wrote stories that I believe truly mattered. And you can bet I cursed the Harbinger’s very existence on a couple stress-filled nights.

Now it’s about to end, or so the calendar would have me believe. My name now tops the staff list, I have six more IB exams, a stack of graduation party invitations on my desk and I’m about to go to my forty-eighth and final deadline. My exhaustion goes bone-deep and I get the feeling that the bags under my eyes will never go away.

Unfortunately I don’t have a snappy one-liner to make you think I have it all figured out. I don’t. I’m not the polished, know-it-all senior I thought I’d be. I’m still in bed, deciding whether or not to watch an episode of “Game of Thrones” before heading to the library. I guess all I have at the end of my senior year are my memories and feelings, haphazard and disorganized as they might be.

So as I get closer to my last words as a Harbinger kid, I want to use this last byline to lay my high school years at this paper’s feet, for opening so many doors and shoving me through so many more.

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