high school

End of the Year Gathering: The Finale

It’s Erica, your new high school graduate.

My cap slowly slid off my head with each round of applause as each person stood up to receive their diplomas. By the time I got up, it was clinging onto my head with its last elastic breaths, and I tore it off as soon as I stepped off the stage.

I’m thankful that alphabetical order allowed me to sit between Levi and Aidan—they told me I wasn’t going to die when I needed to hear it most and even kept copies of  my speech just in case I passed out on the way to the podium. During my speech my eyes kept flitting around the audience, looking for Allison somewhere in the pews, but I couldn’t locate her frazzled head anywhere.

(neither Levi nor Aidan)

(neither Levi nor Aidan)

I couldn’t believe that was it. This was the event we had all been waiting for, to solidify the end of high school. The caps and the gowns, the sea of family and friends, this was all it. Pomp and Circumstance sounded ten times better when we were marching to its tune down the aisles.

But those two hours were just as fleeting as the rest of that long-awaited week. For a week we were removed into our lives and placed in Lancaster to make the Eden our home. For one last week we rotated between swinging on the playground and sitting in the lobby and eating at Garfield’s. We went out to movies, to dinner, to the park, and to coffee, spending our nights and days pretending, as we always have, to be normal friends.

In the matching t-shirts

And the days in Philadelphia.

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The 3am breakfasts

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And the 1940s swing dancing.

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Even in sitting on the grass

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Or sitting in the car.

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This was VPSA. This was the best part and the worst part about going to Veritas, the best part and worst part of such a physically distant yet painfully personal high school community.

And for one last time, the Gathering ended with eating Subway at the park and making a flurry of goodbyes. They were more heartfelt this time, as we went around not knowing which goodbyes were merely a “see you later” and which were actually permanent. But a couple days later, here we are now, no longer shoulder to shoulder but mile to mile and state to state and ocean to ocean, awaiting the future in which some of our paths will converge again.

While I was always somewhat annoyed that I never went to a ‘real’ high school, that I could never easily explain to people what school or what kind of school I went to, I’m still proud and grateful to have graduated from VPSA. Despite the odds, despite the harrowing distance, despite the unorthodox method of education, we made it to the EOTYG one last time and graduated together.

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I’m a little biased, but VPSA, the class of 2016 was the best class you will ever have.

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It’s Officially (Almost) Over

Allison, your local AAA member.

It’s (almost) the second semester of senior year which means my high school experience is (almost) over, and I’m (nearly) ready to cruise through the last few weeks of school. I’m (almost) about to go to college across the country. I’m (almost) sure what university I’ll be attending, and I’m (almost) ready to just pack my things and ship out now. I’m excited for new classes, new professors, and a new life. I’ll be living away from home, making different friends, and actually growing up. It’s something I’ve been preparing for since my freshman year and it’s suddenly (about to be) a reality. It seems like I’ve always had to get the best grades and perfectly balance my extracurriculars with academics to ensure the greatest transcript coupled with the best resume. It hasn’t been easy, but suddenly the pay-off is (about to be) worth it.

The pressure of college applications, college acceptances, and high school transcripts has been (almost) entirely lifted from my shoulders. This is the first time in nearly six years I haven’t felt the constant need to keep up my performance. I can let my grades slip and it (probably) won’t haunt me. I can miss a homework and I’ll (probably) wake up the next morning.

Every decision I flub doesn’t feel intrinsically connected to my future. Every mistake I make won’t have lasting repercussions in my academic career.

This has given me incredible freedom.

I spent the past few hours planning out the amazing things I’ll (hopefully) be doing between now and August. I’ll (probably) be going to Italy for a few weeks. Erica (might) be visiting New York for Spring Break. I’ll (most likely) attend Veritas’ End of the Year Gathering and meet all the amazing people who were in my classes this year and I’ll reconnect with everyone I met last year. I have senior prom, graduation, and my 18th birthday.

Seeing the next few months mapped out in terms of special events was cathartic. The calendar, devoid of homework assignments and project due dates, was a reminder that my entire life doesn’t need to be a stepping stone to the next best thing. I have the upcoming sixth months of my existence to spend with friends, making memories, learning more, and reading great books.

I’m eager to move on to college, to the next big plan, to the next resume-building transcript-perfecting activity, and I’m (almost) ready, I’m (nearly) ready, just not quite yet.

Why I Didn’t Do Physics Homework

By Allison.

This post was mostly sparked by Erica, who asked me the other day why I let myself get a full chapter behind in physics class. At first, I was shocked myself, at my seeming lack of passion, at my decision to ignore a week’s worth of physics homework, at my apparent poor choices. But after some introspection, I knew there was more to the story, I knew there was a different perspective to be gained. So, here’s some more of me.

I’m crying again. I shouldn’t be. Nothing so simple, so barely disappointing, so easily fixed, should make me cry so much. But now I can’t stop. Again. Now I can’t help myself. What is it, the fourth time this week? The fifth? I break down over little things. A bad quiz grade or a mean comment from my mom. I panic when a stranger tries to speak to me and I burst into tears when I answer a question wrong in class. I cry over everything and here I am, crying, again. I need to stop. I need to do homework. I need to read two books and submit three calculus assignments and write a well crafted essay before 11:55 EST. I need to text my friend back. I need to stop avoiding making plans. But I can’t. I can’t do anything. So I put on headphones. Music drowning out my thoughts helps, sometimes. I can’t think as well with the music blasting. All the horrible things in my brain tend to fall apart, unformed, less threatening when they’re not fully equipped with my hyperactive imagination. I lay on my bed. I want to sleep. If I sleep, I’ll feel better, I tell myself.

But the next day is always worse. I wake up empty. My eyes are red, puffy. I put on makeup to feel pretty but I feel hollow. I get dressed to be presentable but I’m a wreck. My heart is deflated, it does not feel like it can possibly pump enough blood to circulate through my arms and legs. My lungs cannot supply enough oxygen to my brain, I am sure of it. I am half alive. I wonder if my organs were scraped from my body last night, taken from me. This is not how a human should feel.

My motivation feels weaker than my body. It is not laziness. It is not procrastination. It is total, consuming inability. I can barely move from my bed. I cannot sit at my desk. I can’t fathom doing homework. I cannot make myself care. My hands feel restless but my brain is numb. Sentences fall, unfinished, from my mind. Even without the music blasting like the night before, I cannot process what I want to think. Everything feels cloudy, foggy, like I am just learning a language and cannot translate every word of a sentence. I try to answer texts but stare at my phone screen for long minutes before turning it off again. I do not know what to say any more than I know what to think.

My mom tells me I am wasting time by sleeping. I’ve been in bed too long, she says. I should wake up earlier, she chides. But she does not know I am here because I cannot move. Friends tell me I am behind in school work. I know I am. But I cannot do it now. I do not have a brain to do it with; I am only half alive, after all. The homework is due tonight, they say. But this is not about avoiding my responsibilities. This is about being utterly incapable of facing them. I am dedicated and passionate when I am well. But, right now, I cannot find those qualities within me. I am sick.

I have a brain that quits sometimes. A brain that is irrational, that cannot process things and keep the significance of events in their proper magnitude. I imagine one bad grade, one bad day, ruining my future. I see my dreams crumble around me, I feel my existence decay to dust. It does not cause me to panic. Instead, I become numb. I stop picturing my future when I am afraid it is ruined. I pretend I am dead, I pretend my life will not stretch beyond the next day’s sunrise. I lose hope and I lose interest in having hope.

Days like this happen less than they used to. I once spent weeks in bed because everything felt grey, everything felt insurmountable. I once went months without feeling like I could function normally. Now a few hours haunt me. I live normally, I am healthy, mostly, with short bouts of grayness. A few days maybe, not a week. I have grown. But it does not mean what I am trying to do isn’t incredibly difficult. I am trying to manage a healthy person’s schedule without the resource of a healthy brain. I am not ignoring my responsibilities. I am not bad at managing time. I am simply hoping I have the wherewithal tomorrow to handle what my brain could not today. I will not apologize for suffering from depression. I will not make excuses for bad grades when I am handed them. It is not my fault I didn’t do work yesterday. It is not my fault I couldn’t sleep and it is not my fault I spent three years of my life trying to be healthy instead of learning an ancient language. I’ll be better one day, but right now, recovery takes my time and my focus. When I have no energy for school, for friendships, for life, it is simply because I spent it all trying to stay alive.