I’m sitting in my favorite spot in room 521: the far left corner of the infamous blue couch, right next to the open window bringing in fresh, May air.
It’s 4:43 p.m. The yearbook is in, and it’s not close enough to deadline for the staffers to be flooding the chairs. Tate isn’t at his desk, and I find myself alone.
Within seconds the lump in my throat makes it hard to swallow, and the tears blur my vision.
How do you say goodbye to a place? How do you thank it for its memories, and tell it how much it’s meant to you? How do you tell a blue couch that you’ll miss its suspicious stains and lumpy cushions? How to you tell a whiteboard that you’ll miss its haphazard, out-of-context quotes that created so many inside jokes?
I turn towards the paper-covered window that is a collage of pages torn from years worth of Harbingers. They shield the world from how much fun we have every day.
I pick out some of my favorite pieces on the wall and I think about how I’ve told so many stories but never stopped to think about how they have become my own. I am a mosaic, made up of qualities and characteristics, tips and tricks given to me with each piece I write. Each relationship made and each source I speak to becomes more than just a quote on a page, but a part of myself.
They teach me lessons that have been far more important that anything I’ve gleaned from a pre-calc book or a biology worksheet.
I’ve learned about work ethic from the kid who works three jobs to support his mom and sister. I’ve learned how to embrace creativity from a 16-year-old tattoo artist. I’ve learned about empathy from a guidance counselor who lost 10 students to suicide in four years, and I’ve learned about tradition from an 87-year-old with a knack for Christmas decorations. I’ve learned how to appreciate every moment from a young mother who lost her only son.
I’ve conveyed the desperation of poverty that lurks in the corners of an affluent county, and written its story. I’ve analyzed the effect of social media on self esteem, and written a story. I’ve written about young love, and lost basketball games, and quirky talents, and hard times and good times.
I’ve written everyone else’s stories, and from them I am finally able to write my own. I am made up of every story I put off homework for to perfect it, every story that has inevitably made me cry at one point or another and every acknowledgement that my words resonated with someone.
I am every story that I labored over in the J-room.
So I sit back down on the couch. I take a breath. I let the cursor blink a couple times, but now I know what my story is. The person that I am today was created by the stories that I wrote in this room and the friends that became family during caffeinated nights spent laboring over a product that has given me so many of my proudest moments.
My laptop fades to black, and I pause to think for a second about the fact that in seven days I will walk down the aisle at SM South district stadium. My palms will probably be sweaty, and I’ll probably be picturing everything that can possibly go wrong in the 500 steps between my back row seat and Mr. McKinney on the stage. I’ll take a couple breaths, he will hand me my diploma. My family will probably cheer louder than anyone else there, and I’ll smile despite acting like I’m dying from embarrassment.
And then it will be over.
Not just the ceremony, but high school. The sun will set, the day will be done and life will go on — a wise old Texan once told me that, but it hasn’t really hit me until just now.
I’ll wake up on Thursday a graduate. And in two short months I’ll move 1,200 miles away, and I don’t know if I will ever live here again.
But for now I’m sitting here, saying goodbye to a blue couch, some broken swivel chairs and stacks of 32-page papers. I’m saying goodbye to a room, because it’s easier than saying goodbye to the people, and easier than saying goodbye to those memories.