Have A Great Summer

July 30, 2013
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Have a great summer! It was the standard message someone would hastily write in your yearbook if they didn’t know you. In our final week as seniors in high school, the graduating class was seated under harsh fluorescent lights of the cafeteria in cliques. Yearbooks and sharpies of assorted colors travelled between lunch tables. I wondered what I would see when my yearbook was returned to me. I feared that my yearbook would be filled with a multitude of standard messages. A series of ‘Never change!’ or ‘I’m glad I met you!’ were unauthentic and impersonal. I was unsure of what my classmates thought of me, and if they had anything positive to write.

I didn’t embrace the concept of high school with open arms. I was skeptical of the events organized by student council, and barely attended them. I refused to assimilate with the current pop culture that had infiltrated the adolescent minds at my school. My individualism provided me with a great sense of pride. My peers couldn’t understand why John Hughes’ films and 80’s rap music fixated me. In their defense, I wasn’t a fan of Taylor Swift or The Vampire Diaries. I belonged to a different generation. I was a wallflower of some sort; I watched relationships crash and burn, friendships that fell apart and fights that ensued over petty issues. Occasionally I engaged in small talk with my classmates and offered to help peers in need of academic support. That pretty much summed up all four years of my social activity. High school would be four short unremarkable years of my life, and I presumed developing relationships beyond a casual level was unnecessary. Yet I valued what would be written in my yearbook. Years from now I would not want to flip through naked pages of white. Restlessly anchored to my seat growing increasingly uncomfortable, a self-proclaimed nonconformist reeking of hypocrisy is what I truly was.

My boyfriend could sense my anxiety from across the cafeteria; he approached my table cautiously unsure if he was in trouble.
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m not looking forward to seeing a bunch of empty pages in my yearbook. I just want it back so I can leave.”

“That’s what you’re worried about?” Andrew said, trying not to crack a smile. “Maya, don’t worry about it.”

I shot him a look. Andrew was the class president, events coordinator and apart of what one would call the ‘socially elite’ in high school. Not to mention he was holding a yearbook that was practically crammed with essays written by half the school. I slowly began to sink into my seat praying for the bell to ring.

Andrew got up from his seat. “I’ll go get your yearbook.” He walked off before I could respond. Great, now he’s going to canvas the aisles of the cafeteria inviting the student body to write a series of insincere messages in his girlfriend’s yearbook. I winced. Andrew was back sooner than I had anticipated, now holding my yearbook. I snatched it out of his hands before he could sit down.

“Did you open it?”

“No, we’ll go through it together”

The idea made me uncomfortable. I did not want Andrew to know that very few people were aware of my existence. Especially when he was Mr. Congeniality.
I popped my yearbook open, starting from the back of the book. The white glossy pages were barely visible, and covered with a variety of penmanship. Before I could read I looked up at Andrew.
“This is mine right?” He rolled his eyes in response, as I continued to read:
Your humor and ability to make people feel comfortable around you is such a gift. I love how you aren’t afraid to tell it like it is; you’re independent and witty. I will definitely miss your attitude; you’re unafraid to express your opinion. Not to mention you’ve always been more than willing to tutor me for those killer calculus tests! Thank you for making my final year at Bur Oak a lot more bearable! Good luck at Waterloo.
-Lena Chen
I was taken back by June’s message. We hadn’t shared an extremely personal relationship, but her message exuded sincerity. I continued to scan through the remaining messages; taking note of the number of people that expressed their appreciation for helping them pass finals. Others highlighted my ability to take a comical approach to just about anything; adding on that they would have liked to known me better. I suffered a twinge of guilt reading those comments. My peers had found kind words to write, even though I hadn’t willingly given them the opportunity to get know me. If I had the chance to relive high school I would have changed that.
High school was indeed four short years, but in that time period teenagers undergo an extensive amount of self-development. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was a witness to the personal growth of my graduating class. I flipped to the pictures showcasing the seniors when they entered high school. Pubescent faces, braces and glasses were unavoidable in the ninth grade. I glanced up to survey the people around me; so much had changed since then. Classmates I had once stereotyped as below my intellectual caliber freshmen year were going on to attend reputable post secondary institutions. This transition wasn’t apparent to me until my high school experience was coming to an end. I was slightly envious of everyone’s transformation. I had remained an avid skeptic all throughout secondary school, without any groundbreaking personal change. Andrew who was studying my facial expressions was trying to make sense of what I was thinking.
“Everyone grew up, and I’m still me.”
“That’s not true! Read what I wrote.” He said. I flipped to the very last page of my yearbook, which had been allocated for Andrew.

I remember the first time we had class together, ninth grade French with Ms. Sharma. I was terrified of you, because you never smiled. You never talked to anyone unless it was for school related purposes! You kind of sent out this hostile attitude that radiated through out the class (don’t kill me for saying that.) Anyways, if I were to describe the girl you’ve become today I would say that you are intelligent, sharp-tongued and fiercely independent. Initially you were much more guarded about being yourself with other people, and now you’re unapologetic for the person you are. Have a great summer.

“I know you’re not much of a romantic so I didn’t write anything cheesy in there.”

I pecked him on the cheek.

“What was that for?”

“Your message was perfect.” I closed my yearbook, just as the bell began to ring.
“You’re not going to read the rest of them?”
“Later.” I said, in a blissful state.

Content with the person I am now, and optimistic of the person I would become. I realized that I would be given countless opportunities in life to continue to endure personal growth.

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