I was in kindergarten when I discovered what it means to act impulsively. I was in the midst of an at-bat during a game of recess baseball when I received news that my brother was being tormented by a classmate. Though moments before I was entirely focused on striking the next pitch thrown my way, I quickly abandoned what had, upon hearing news of my brother’s predicament, become a relatively insignificant task. It took but a split second for me to spring into action. I scurried across the field, moving as quickly as a three year old is capable of, and spotted my brother’s pursuer. Void of all logical thinking or problem solving capabilities, I chased down my target, screaming furiously with each step, and lunged in their direction. I don’t recall what happened between my leap of faith and my being sent home for misconduct, but the significance of that seemingly trivial event is something that I’ll never forget.
That day marked the first of what would be many cases in which I let my short temper defeat my rationale. From that telling moment as a youngster, I garnered quite the reputation of being cynical, impulsive, and angry. I gave no reason for others to think different of me, and a certain stigma with which my presence was associated began to rapidly form. It wasn’t until high school that I found the strength to undergo a period of introspection in which I detected my flaws, dedicated myself to correcting them, and set goals for who I wanted to become. And yet, as my time in the CYHSB rapidly slips away, I still can’t seem to shake the preconceived notions that blind many of my peers from seeing who I’ve become, rather than who I once was.
It’s my belief that this is the same for many of my fellow classmates. Each of us have undergone periods of significant transformation in the last four years, yet we struggle to cleanse our reputations of past mistakes, thus denying us the opportunity to present ourselves absolutely reborn. But now, as our pasts are fading away and our future is shining bright, we have the opportunity to, in a sense, start anew.
A change of scenery, a re-selection of compadres, and the opportunity to establish ourselves without the aforementioned preconceived notions lie just beyond this nearing summer vacation. While the prospect of having a tabula rasa is exciting, it also yields a very crucial question: How much do we separate from our former selves, and how much of our pasts do we hold onto?
I occasionally lie in bed and recall that leap of faith and the day that, in my mind, will forever live in infamy. And though that episode served as the beginning of a frightening habit, I nevertheless find myself sleeping peacefully on those nights of recollection. When I envision my impulsive, misguided, and foolish former self, I find satisfaction in how far I’ve come since then. I feel gratified by the fact that, throughout the past several years, I, along with my classmates, have grown by leaps and bounds. This seemingly simple story is, in actuality, incredibly complex, and it holds the answer to the aforementioned crucial question.
We must journey forward in our lives, but not at the expense of the memories that have molded the people we’ve become. Our futures lie ahead, and we should approach with our heads held high and our chests jutting outward, but we must also drag our pasts behind us; not to weigh us down, but to serve as a reminder of who we once were. Without consistently reflecting on our pasts - the good, bad, and the disgraceful - we will find ourselves incapable of moving forward. By making mistakes, we learn how to act appropriately. By hurting others, we learn how to respect. By acting impulsively, we learn how to act rationally. I’m no wise man, but I’ve come to think of life as one big opportunity for trial and error. We must err, transgress, hurt, and disrespect in order to arrive at self actualization. There’s no shame in remembering who you once were, even if that person faintly resembles who you are now.
And so, I sleep peacefully because I’ve begun striking my balance. I long for the opportunity to establish myself before others, to come forth with a blank slate and the chance to make solely good memories. But I equally value the mistakes I’ve made and the disgraceful things I’ve done, for those are the very reasons why I’ve arrived where I am today. I imagine that I’ll keep a great deal of my past mistakes to myself, but their implications and effects will remain lodged in the forefront of my mind throughout the next stages of my life, reminding me of what I don’t want to be, and inspiring me to progress toward my ideal self.
We seniors have a beautiful opportunity. Though the imminence of our departure brings an array of uncertainties, there’s one absolute: We have the opportunity to re-establish ourselves. I feel it’s imperative that we take full advantage of this opportunity, but we do so in a way that allows us to hold onto pieces of our former selves. Our time here, in Memphis, has primed us for the future. We mustn’t forget that we owe who we presently are to who we once were.