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What it means to be a 'Do-er'
My first day of high school, I remember sitting in rough blue bleachers in a wide, cool gym, watching the special orientation prepared especially for freshmen like myself. I was cheerful, pretentious, eyeing the blue-shirted girl before me who gave us ninth graders a demonstration on the intricacies of high school. She called up a few bright-faced volunteers who eagerly trotted up to the center stage of the gym (my hands were not among theirs, by the way). They were compelled to play a marginally embarrassing game in front of our whole class which made me snort under my breath-it involved running up to a teacher volunteer with a balloon, and hugging them until the balloon was popped. After it was over and the freshman volunteers returned to the bleachers, the blue-shirted girl who was obviously in charge had a couple of words to say about what we’d seen.
“There are three types of people in high school. The doers, the spectators, and the what-ifs. Did you see the people who raised their hands right away? Those are the do-ers. They go out and get things done. They get what they want, and they don’t care what people think of them. The people at Agoura High School who enjoy their years here the most are the do-ers. You should all be do-ers.” She paced the wide halls, seriously. “The spectators aren’t the ones playing in the football games or performing in the school plays. They’re the ones who watch their friends do those things. And the what-ifs,” she paused here, for emphasis, “they’re the ones who don’t do anything at all. They think they’re too cool for high school, too cool to get involved. They don’t take part, and they don’t show up to watch. They don’t do anything.”
I remember that speech, although at the time I don’t even remember caring very much.
You see, as a freshman, I was a what-if. I was quiet, didn’t get involved. I had few friends, having just transferred from a different school system, and the best friend I did have I became slowly estranged from as she became wrapped in a love affair with her boyfriend. I got good grades, paid attention (mostly) and most people had no idea who the hell I was. I remember one comment near the end of my year in freshman honors English. The class was being especially rowdy, and our teacher had commented on how chatty we all were. One Asian boy at the front remarked laughingly, “yeah, but at least we’re not all as quiet as Dee. Imagine how boring that would be!”
Worst of all, he was right. Why was I so horrid at socializing? Maybe I just didn’t care. Either way, I remember a great deal of resentment within myself. I didn’t like anyone, I didn’t like myself. I wanted to be a lively teenager, not a silent dreamer. I dreaded lunch time, sitting hands folded, back against the wall as my former best friend and her chubby boyfriend made out with astounding vigor. Those forty-five minutes dragged on forever.
By the end of the school year, I was ready to change schools again. Summer dragged slowly by, however, and I returned to my same school an unchanged sophomore. Until Biology class.
I remember entering that class, and noticing a boy who radiated charisma; we’ll call him B. I don’t know where the thought came from, but it popped into my head suddenly and full of certainty: I’ll befriend that kid and everything will change. (Later I found out at the beginning of the year, he thought I was scary.)
And sure enough, he ended up sitting next to me and we soon became friends. He was always laughing, optimistic, happy, and generally affable. You couldn’t help but like B, he was open, friendly, fun. And sure enough, I noticed myself changing as I became friends with him. He brought out the best in me.
After an irreparable fight between me and my ex-best friend, in the midst of which horrible truths were exchanged, I began sitting with B and his friends during lunchtimes. Immediately I began to happily anticipate lunch, instead of dreading it. I made friends in all of my new classes and starting to become a person that I never even knew existed. It was as if this boy’s presence had rubbed something off on me that brought a new self to my surface. I became fun, too. I became energetic, lively, and charismatic.
And for the first time, I began getting involved in my high school’s affairs. B and his friends were involved in ASB; the Associated Student Body, who basically run the school. They plan dances, pep rallies, fundraising within classes, school events, and announcements; everything non-academic that happens in high school. My new friends weren’t a part of the ASB class, but attended steering committees every month that helped plan our classes’ events. When I arrived at the first meeting with them, I found that I had an affinity for ASB. I was a basket of ideas, my hand shooting up with a suggestion every ten minutes. After that meeting, our class advisors, two teachers, told me that they thought I had great suggestions and should consider going for an ASB position.
From that moment on, I can’t even begin to explain how much I wanted that position on ASB. I went for it like a starving saber-toothed tiger after a morsel of juicy prey. I put my heart and soul into it. I began showing up to school events more than I ever had before.
I tried out for a position in our next pep rally, and I made it. I got to play the part of Princess Peach in our Mario & Luigi themed pep rally performance. Me and some students from my Advanced Placement European History class performed in our school’s Lip Sync, and when I watch it over on a DVD given to me of that night’s performance, I see myself center stage, performing with ridiculous enthusiasm. Yet it was still incredible to watch, and indescribably fun to take part in. I volunteered to help with back to school night, advertising our class necklaces and rings to passing parents. The expensive jewelry was next to cheap and appealing food, and we sold nothing, and still I enjoyed myself, laughing and fooling with B and other friends. I dressed up for everyday of spirit week (as an Indian, in a sports jersey, for career day with my sister’s starbucks hat, and in blue and gold for the very last day). I spent almost as much time in the ASB room as the kids in an ASB class. People began to know me. I thought I’d begun to know myself.
I ran for our Junior Class Treasurer, delivering an impassioned speech with all the self I could muster. I was complemented on it by plenty of classmates, and I was proud of myself. Despite that, the next day, shaking in my boots with anxiety, I was informed that I’d lost the running (by a large proportion). I hadn’t been as angry as long as I’d thought I’d be, but still I shook with sadness when I was outside the sight of my classmates, ripping down my candidate posters, gripping in my hand the consolation prize they handed all candidates who’d lost: an application for ASB commissionership.
I thought I’d make the commissionership for sure. I’d shown more passion and heart then most of the others running for that commissionership, and a persistence that was respectable. I got over my loss and I held and still hold no grudges against the candidate who won my place. I still showed up to all the steering committees and class events.
When it came time to interview for the ASB commissionership, I thought I’d get it. And though B was by now just about my best friend, I secretly didn’t think he’d make it. He hadn’t worked for it like I had; I don’t think he’d done half as much as I had.
And yet, there was something B always had that I didn’t.
I realized this after both our interviews had passed, when Bryce raved cheerfully about how well his had gone while I had my definite doubts. Part of me snorted, it’s just his optimism! But a more credible part had a different opinion. B had an aura, likability, a charisma, that I did not. I tried to simulate it, but all along I had the growing feeling I would never be able to duplicate it. As much as it occurred to me how shattered I’d be if I didn’t make that ASB commissioner ship, I began to tremble with dread at the feeling that I should expect the worst.
I didn’t get it. There aren’t words to describe how shattered I was when on that Sunday, as the sun set lazily in the background, I beheld the list without my name. B’s was there, bold and true in typed printed, and mine was not. It was hard to be happy for him when I felt like all my very self had been shredded into tiny pieces-when I felt like my insides had been drowned with hopeless failure. As I walked away from the foreboding list towards my home (I live about ten minutes from school), the sun took rest and the moon rose. In its dim light, I climbed up a nearby hill, feet crunching on leaves beneath my shoes, taking shelter in the midst of a winding tree. There I cried hysterically. It was incomprehensible how broken I felt.
But the next day, when I saw B’s shining face, I felt bad for how much I had wanted to resent him. I couldn’t-B was innocuous. He held not a single malevolent thought in his mind. He tried to restrain his happiness at making a commissionership, sensitive to my feelings on the issue. I didn’t want that, so I hid my despair from him and tried to be happy at his accomplishment.
I, and not B, was invited to apply to be Link Crew Leader a couple weeks later. These were the same people who I’d seen at my freshman orientation. Their job, they explained at the assembly that recommended students got to attend, was to help freshman adjust to life in high school. They played games with us again, singing songs like the ones I used to sing in camp. Then, they took volunteers. I was one of the first to raise my hand, and I was called on, running up gallantly to partake in the game I’d snubbed as a freshman. It was the same game, and our side won (I’d fallen down and been laughed at on my turn in the relay, but I hadn’t minded, I have no shame). And after the game the same speech was given as had been given in my first day of high school. As the do-ers, spectators, and what-ifs were explained, this time I realized I was very clearly a do-er. A mixture of pride and confusion filled me.
After the presentation was over, the Link Crew Leaders invited us all to apply to be Link Leaders and handed us application forms. At lunch, B decided he’d wanted one too, despite not being recommended by a teacher.
So the two of us applied together, and though I thought my group interview had went well, B once again made Link Crew while I did not. The feeling of worthlessness inside of my rose again until I thought I was ready to simply die. The only question I remember asking myself was why?
What’s wrong with me? Over and over I asked myself, Why am I so worthless?
Over the next few days I came to school and saw B, a smile playing on his radiant face every time I laid eyes upon him. It was impossible to resent him, no matter whether or not I wanted to. He was the reason that I had friends now, that I’d had such an enjoyable sophomore year, the reason I’d come out of my shell, the reason I wasn’t still sitting awkwardly against a wall and dreading lunch. He didn’t see me as a failure. So I mustered up a strength inside I didn’t really have and tried to exorcise the plague that assailed my self-worth.
In a number of weeks, towards the end of school, I found myself helping B and the rest of ASB with a school fundraiser. I was the only one present who wasn’t on ASB and was willing to volunteer free time anyway. If anyone noticed that by all reason I shouldn’t be there (and some of them certainly were aware) , none of the ASB members said a word. I laughed and joked and enjoyed myself and felt for awhile like I belonged there. B’s eyes shone, and he chuckled good-naturedly, elbowing me as he grinned: “See? You’re still a part of it. Just, not really.”
We looked at each other a moment, and after a couple seconds, I broke out into a smile, and the two of us laughed.
When I walked home that day, I felt a conflicting mix of emotions, remembering B’s shining eyes. It wasn’t quite like being an ASB member. I wouldn’t be in the class, invited to the retreat or field trips or special meetings. It was still good though, and I still enjoyed high school as a ‘do-er’ more than ever had freshman year, as a ‘what-if’. I’d failed and failed and failed after putting my soul into so much that year, but still a part of my rang hopefully at the prospect of next year. I didn’t have to be a part of ASB or any special class to still invest all my heart into it. Disappointment still bit at me, but I thought back to B at the very beginning of the year and how much I’d changed since meeting him. Somehow it gave me hope. He gave me hope. I owe a lot to that lively little boy, and reluctantly I’ll admit he deserves all the positions he got more than I ever did.