March 23, 2009
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“What morals do you live by Mr... Dawson, is it? What are your ethics?” said the interviewer.

These were the questions. It was these questions that made me look back at my memories and spend countless hours in bed looking up at the ceiling trying to conjure an answer, and trust me, the answers I came up with were in front of me the whole time. Yup, that was me: so busy looking ahead that I miss what’s right beside me.

Where did this bad habit start? I can’t help but feel that it all began in kindergarten. It was the first day of school and I was pretty nervous. Although I did not have separation anxiety when my mom dropped me off, I was still nervous without my mom right beside me. The only kid that didn’t cry when her parents left was a girl named Jessica. She arrived at school before I did and we waited in the classroom, watching the other kids as tears dropped down their cheeks when their parents left.

Afterwards, we were told to stand up individually and give out our names. Everybody introduced themselves as if they were being sentenced to capital punishment, except Jessica. She happily introduced herself as if she had been doing that her whole life, and I could tell she knew how to introduce herself by the grin she had on her face.

Although everyone treated everybody else like total strangers in class, our inner kindergarteners really came into sight during recess. We all ran around as if we didn’t have a care in the world, but in kindergarten you really don’t have any. The only thing that matters is whether or not you’re having fun, right?

Then, it struck me. Where was Jessica? I looked around the playground but didn’t find her. Before my five-year-old attention span was almost dried up, I found her in an area under a tree that was out of sight from the teachers. The spot was alluring. The school wall gave a nice covering of shade in the morning, and during the afternoon, the tree did, and the way Jessica was sitting under the tree made the spot look like something out of a painting. As I approached her, she seemed to be lying there almost perfectly still.

She almost seemed to be lifeless, just staring at the clouds as if she had been laying there her entire life, and those next few moments were the kind that I will remember until I cross over to the next world.

“What are you doing?” I asked, curiously.

“Just looking at the clouds,” Jessica said.

“Why don’t you come and play with us?” I asked.

“I don’t want to.”

“Why not?” I asked, still being persistent.

“Because,” she responded.


“I don’t want to tell you,” she replied, annoyed.

“Are you sure?” I asked, again.

“Fine, I’ll tell you, nosy. My famly is always moving. If I go and play with you and everyone else, all of you will be my friends, but then I’ll move away again, and I’ll be sad. This has happened a zillion times. It’s like what my mommy says, ‘Nothing’s permanent’.”

This almost literally blew my mind. I was astonished. I never thought that making friends could be a bad thing.

After a silent pause, she said, “You don’t understand.” Then she left, as a single tear streamed down her face.

Subsequently, the bell rang and I headed back towards the teachers, noticeably slower than I used to walk. It seemed almost as if a load of weight had been placed on my shoulders. From that moment on, I truly saw the world from a different window. What she said left me silent for the next hour and deep in thought for the next few years.

Jessica kept her word. By the next month, she was gone. She may have been gone, but she was definitely not forgotten. The scars from her words were still in my mind.

Then over the next few years, I really saw what Jessica and her mom meant by “nothing’s permanent.” My classmates, neighbors, and teachers changed, but the void was never left empty for long. With old classmates gone, came new ones. The same thing happened with my neighbors, teachers, and coaches, but it wasn’t just the people in my life that changed: my family moved to a different house twice, I became an older brother, I developed a love for fitness and athletics, my view on academics transformed,, my hair changed, and I took up the piano and violin. One new kid said that I reminded him a lot of another guy he used to know, but I disregarded it.

So life was pretty good. My academics were impressive, and my athletics, although not as impressive as my academics, were also fine. Even after six years I kept on living by the line that Jessica told me, “Nothing’s permanent.” Little did I know that the quote could also refer to itself.

In the 6th grade, we were introduced to a new class: philosophy. The teacher, Mr. Chios, was an older man with enough teaching experience to teach the rest of the teachers. He was one of the most respected people on campus. He was on level with the principal.

One day, Mr. Chios wanted to read the class some famous quotes. The first few I thought were pretty good, but no cigar. The last one, however, really struck me. The quote read, “Friendships that have stood the test of time and chance are surely best, brows may wrinkle, hair grow gray, but friendship never knows decay.” After all these years I could not recall having a friend that had been with me for more than a couple years. This contradicted everything I had been living by for more than half my life. I was rendered speechless for the second time in my life.

At the end of the class I walked up to Mr. Chios and asked him, “Do you believe that? Do…do you agree with that last quote you read?”

“Of course I do. I’ve known one of my friends for 25 years, and he still comes over for dinner now and then. Why do you want to know?”

“I’m just curious,” I said, and I was on my way.

Thankfully, this was the last class of the day, and my dad wouldn’t be picking me up for another couple hours so I decided to take a tour of the campus by myself.

I was walking around the whole campus thinking about what I just heard, and there I saw it, the spot from kindergarten. The tree was still in its exact position from six years ago. The scenic area made me want to lie there, forget my troubles, and sleep, and eventually the alluring aura of the vicinity was too much. However, before I was about to drift off into sleep, my scars starting burning again.

I then started to think to myself, “Is a true friendship permanent? No, that can’t be right. Nothing’s permanent and I know that. My life’s a perfect example of that, but Mr. Chios’s friend is basically permanent. How did that happen? None of my friends have lasted more than a couple years. What’s going on here?”

Ironically, after all of this thinking I fell asleep, and when I woke up I saw my dad’s car pulling up to the school. Instead of jumping and screaming in a futile attempt to draw my dad’s attention, I ran back to the middle school to avoid getting a lengthy lecture from my dad on how being on time is vital and everything.

While I was in the car, attempting to catch my breath, I noticed something. My dad always switched between the same two radio stations, both of which were completely dissimilar in terms of what music they played; one played classical music while the other played rock ‘n’ roll. So I asked my dad, “Dad, why do you keep switching between these two?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You always switch between these two exact opposite radio stations. Why don’t you just listen to one?”

“Life isn’t black or white, son. There are always shades of gray.”

This is the answer, the answer that put down all of my questions. I couldn’t believe that the answer was right in front of me every time I went home from school. It was as if the light at the end of the tunnel appeared, but in life, there is always more than one tunnel.

For the next two years I lived differently. I ignored some of what Jessica had said and made friends no matter if I knew that they would be leaving soon or not, and it was great. More than half of the middle school knew me, and if a friend ever left, I would be sure to keep in contact.

Unfortunately, this perfect world of mine didn’t last as long as I hoped it would. In the second semester of the 8th grade, my dad received a job offer in New Jersey that was too good to pass up. He also said that the new school I would be attending was top-notch and that I also had an opportunity there.

I was caught dumbfounded when I heard this. Right as I figured everything out, a new dilemma appeared. It seems that the void was emptying itself again, but the worst part was having to break the bad news to my peers.

My friends were saddened by this fact, but they told me to take the opportunity to go to the new school. Once the school day ended, my dad called me.

My dad always knew what I was thinking. He could read my mind like an open book. So when I found out that we were moving, he did take notice in how I was thinking. On the phone he said, “Hey sport. I know that you’re sad about the move, but it’s a great opportunity! The house we’re buying is really nice and so is your new school… Listen, if you really feel strongly about this, you can stay here with your grandparents, and Mom and I can come visit every now and then. Just think about. I’ll be there to pick you up in two hours.”

I had absolutely no idea about what to do. Ambivalence is a cruel mistress. I decided to kill some time and think so guess where I went,

At the tree everything started come back to me, “Nothing’s permanent, yet it’s possible for a friend to be permanent. Life’s supposed to also be a balance, though, but I want to keep the friends I have now. If I go to New Jersey, it’ll be almost impossible to keep in touch with the friends I have now, but it’ll be a great opportunity for me. What a catch-22. What should I do?”

After a full hour of contemplation, an epiphany came that let me make my decision to this quandary. I decided that it would be best to go to New Jersey with my dad, but to stay in touch with my friends no matter what. Besides, making my dad travel all the way to Maine just to see his son would be vindictive.

After a heartrending graduation ceremony and dance, I said my fond farewells to my friends, choking on almost every word, and left. My dad was waiting for me outside of the car.

“I realize how much this school means to you. You really don’t have to come with me. You could stay here another year if you want…”

“No, its ok. This’ll be something new,” I said, giving my dad a small smile. “Besides, I don’t think I could survive another night of saying goodbye.”

Our minds really do work in fascinating ways. When you give up something that was old but wonderful for something new, you somehow make the new thing seem bad or unappealing.

My new school really wasn’t that awful. It was quite good in fact. The facilities were first-rate, and the two-dozen athletic programs weren’t too bad either. The only thing I missed was seeing my old friends’ faces around campus. Luckily, keeping in touch with my friends was a lot easier than I imagined, but I also made new ones. So my four years of high school weren’t as bleak as I foresaw.

“Life really is all about balance. Nothing is permanent, except your friends. ‘Friendships that have stood the test of time and chance are surely best, brows may wrinkle, hair grow gray, but friendship never knows decay.’” This answer struck resonance with the interviewer, and I could tell by the grin on his face.

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