(My last senior column for Northgate's newspaper The Sentinel, 2008)
So in conclusion, dinosaurs are better than Northgate.
This was going to be the finale to my senior goodbye. I had this much figured out by the time Sunday slipped away, after a hilltop picnic and an intimate conversation with a friend discussing why Mr. Kapral resembles a velociraptor. But after having written and rewritten the same draft, I realized "it just doesn't sound right" (as in, "this is a nice array of I-need-an-A but it just isn't true"). Now that I am starting over with the intention of writing this honestly—with a winning ending to look forward to—I am at a loss for the words to put in the beginning.
I suppose I should reflect warmly on my four years spent at Northgate High. You want to hear about me finding my way, growing as a person. Maybe I ought to describe dancing the night away at the prom I didn't attend, or relish in our school spirit and pride, those late night football games at the field that didn't exist until my junior year and swim meets in the pool that still doesn't exist. Kudos! This is what the parents want to read. A pat on the back for sending your kid to the right school, a "California Distinguished School." Community and a feeling of growth, that sense of family you get during passing period when you're packed together in a hallway so densely you can't breathe. Togetherness. District standards. ESLRs. A solid reputation.
For the past four years, I was supposed to give this to you. To all of you. I tried, I really tried for awhile.
I crawled through all the busy work, late nights like these wasted on Mrs. Smith's baby project, monotonous worksheets, all those pointless colored pencil projects and Elmer's glue.
It's not that I don't accept responsibility for my part in all this.
And it's not that I gave up, either…I just stopped working for the things I didn't want.
During the times I would have rather not existed in what felt like a prison, I stayed at home seeking refuge under the covers because I was physically unable to show up to get marked "present." I wasn't at school because I couldn't be, because my 6 AMs were greeted with dread. I left campus because I couldn't bear to suffocate within these concrete walls, or suffer the overwhelming stench of condescension wafting down from the administration to cloud the halls, the lockers, me. I didn't want to "be a part of it all" because I couldn't be. I was at Peet's, I was at Barnes and Noble, I was on Hutchinson.
I was suspended for forging a doctor's note in order to leave campus for sushi.
Looking back, that was damn good sushi.
My growing absences were just missing funds for the school because at Northgate, I was never Korbi Kay Blanchard. I was $20 a day and "that skirt is too short, Missy."
When that nagging pre-recorded message from the office—"Your son or daughter has been marked absent…"—found its way to my home phone, it couldn't explain why I was missing.
Even when I found my way to the office, and personnel demanded that I explain myself, they never asked why. Just who, what, when, where, and how. Never "Are you okay?" only, "This behavior is not okay."
I wasn't okay.
To Northgate's credit, I did learn to broaden my horizons with a variety of prescription—and non prescription—medications. Without Northgate, I wouldn't have met the wonderful psychologists and psychiatrists lucky enough to learn everything about me. These golden years have really opened doors for me, and without them I never would have achieved the clinical diagnosis of depression, bipolar disorder, ADD, and schizophrenia.
(I'll be alright. As a friend of mine once said, "Reality is in your mind but your mind is in reality.")
And I do appreciate the few human beings at Northgate who mean even more to me than if I had been functional. I don't think I'll ever find enough words or homemade desserts to show how much I value the teachers with actual heart, the ones who actually care about the student body (because they sure didn't take this job for the salary). Thank you for giving me the gift of knowledge and the sort of education that isn't covered in the textbooks. You led by example, showing a remarkable amount of patience and understanding, caring enough to connect with me, as well as the rest of the students in your classes. You know who you are, because I showed up for your classes. And when I couldn't, I worked hard on your assignments and turned in quality work, because I didn't want to disappoint you.
And to the friends who have kept me sane and more importantly, alive throughout high school, well, thanks for being incredible. To anyone who had any sort of impact on me…the girls I was best friends with freshman year and don't hang out with much now because we grew apart (or maybe I saw "the group" as a little too judgmental); winning—and losing!—teams and bus buddies during my years of track & field, cross country, freshman year soccer; the people always down for late night tea parties and those I see at the occasional open house party (wink); study groups that failed miserably and those that helped me pass; and to the smiles from slight strangers I wish I saw more of but never really had the chance to know…holler. And as for the human beings I have known since the very beginning—the universe and then some—and still consider my favorite people, well, I'll see you in a few hours.
Thank you for making high school suck that much less. Without you, I wouldn't be here today.
So in conclusion, dinosaurs really are better than Northgate.