Bobby's Senior Column

At this point, it’s hard to know what to say. I seem to find myself caught among all the conflicting ways to characterize the last four years of my life, and believe me, I have analyzed through them at great length. I’ve thought of high school as a microscopic version of one’s greater existence, introducing all of life’s problems and pleasures—as Vonnegut said, “closer to the core of American experience than anything I can think of.” I’ve also thought of Ames High as a prison, as a castle, as a place to crawl into and die and then later a place to be reborn. I’ve thought of it as a medium through which opportunities present themselves without end, and as a place where my ambitions are inevitably crushed by apathy or administrators. I’ve felt very complete here and very alone. Sometimes this all happens at once. But I don’t think any of these portrayals are more accurate than the others. Many people are desperate to put profound experiences into neat, simplified categories, and falling into this trap is all I’ve really accomplished by reflecting. I haven’t figured out what high school has meant to me—at least not in a thematic or macroscopic way. I have these little disjointed memories and emotions, though, and I feel it necessary to attach some significance to them; their incoherence suggests vacuity of meaning but their intensity suggests otherwise. Maybe when put together they create something deep, insightful, or at the very least, interesting. Maybe not, but I’d like to think so. Freshman year. I’m following my older brother down the hall before school. My cheeks are cold and rusty from the 200 feet I just walked in the frigid winter, but I’m happy because Gentlemens’ Breakfast Club is about to meet. I don’t speak during the whole meeting because I’m a freshman and can’t think of anything funny to say, but I laugh until my face is again warm and tan. Something about Vin Diesel and ladies in confederate flag bikinis. I haven’t read the section of The Odyssey that was assigned for the next period, but it doesn’t matter because I’m part of something unique, and we’re enjoying each other’s company. Sophomore year. I constantly adjust my collar at the track banquet, wishing my actions could be validated by a real itch. I wait for my name to be called. Or not called, actually. If he doesn’t call my name for the sophomore list, that means I lettered. I’m pretty sure I lettered, or at least Coach told me I would. He was businesslike about it, conscious of my anticipation but slyly hiding his awareness of it. My name is gloriously skipped and Daniel and I take pictures with the orange fabric A’s afterwards, as I try to decide if my jacket should say Hunter or B. Hunter or R. Hunter. I’ve worn it maybe 10 times since then, and when I do, I usually cover up the name. Junior year. It’s about 40 degrees out and sunny, the type of weather that makes the inside of an automobile quite cozy. I flop onto my back seat during the beginning of 7th period and pretend that what I’m about to do is completely normal. The starting of engines, groans of appreciation for being done with another day, are barely audible as I drift to sleep. Fruitlessly I try to compensate for going to bed so late the night before, but get very little real rest. I wake, what seems like only minutes later, and rush into school because I can’t be late for Precalc. There’s always someplace I have to be, and I want to give up. Senior year. My arm’s motion is monotonous, ripping off the locker signs I put up the day before. I feel somewhat guilty about using so much paper (shit—did I recycle?), but tell myself it’s justified because this is for the peace movement and it will raise student awareness about the war. Yes, the war that’s going on—the one that nobody seems to care about. I tell myself it’s worth the stress and hours of work and thousands of copies and trouble with the administration because it will get people to care about the world. The next day it snows, ices, sleets: freezes the turnout and buries my hopes. I take a deep breath and try to believe that what I’m doing is meaningful. Something that will help and inspire people to care. I want to believe it so badly, but my arm is getting lazy and sore. Obviously, I have more memories of high school than those. Some are fonder, some are sadder. Some are probably more touching or funny, and some are certainly more interesting. But they are all equally important to me, because they make up something that I haven’t been able to figure out yet: my adolescence. I think the theme of these years has maybe been my struggle to identify a role in society and apply myself to fulfilling that role. It sounds like a pragmatic and organized approach to life, but has really been awkward, confusing, and often painful. I’m not sure if it’s because my concept of a meaningful role is constantly changing, or if it’s just the nature of evolving passions and maturation. It probably doesn’t matter, anyway—I suspect that looking too hard for explanations is counterproductive, even pointless. Possibly the only thing I have concluded is that our fulfillment in life is often dependent, or at least partially reliant, on a small group of people: our friends. These people are generally unimportant or dispensable to the mechanics of the world as a whole, yet they represent an indescribable worth to us as humans. Therefore our struggle is to find a balance between our need to emotionally invest in our loved ones, and our obligation to respect and accommodate the rest of the people with whom we share this world. It sounds like an overwhelming task, but I feel that the best starting point is, yet again, stated in the words of Kurt Vonnegut’s Eliot Rosewater, fictitiously baptizing children: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God dam* it, you’ve got to be kind.’” Ideally, I would close here with an inspiring line about how it’s the obligation of everyone to change the world, love your family and friends, and respect others. But I don’t think it’s fair to assign an impossibly vague and difficult task to the reader, and then pass it off as wisdom. I don’t know what your role in the world is, or if people should scrutinize themselves in such terms. I don’t know what my role is, or what it has been or will be. But I have a hunch that if such human assignments do exist, then their worth is defined by the passion and kindness with which they are pursued. So, for whatever you decide is ultimately worth your time: you have to actually care. And, God dam* it, you’ve got to be kind.