What I learned at WA

What I learned at WA

Anthony Cammalleri, Co-Managing Editor

In these last four years at WA, I have learned quite a bit, but remember very little of what was taught in class.

In fact, as graduation approaches, I do not think that I could, if asked to, solve a logarithm problem, pass a chemistry quiz, or name the protagonist of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

I could, however, describe to you the terrifying thrill you get when you jump off a three-story bridge, the power that overcomes you when you make an obscene gesture in the face of a United States president, the exhilaration, comfort, insanity, and beauty of love, and the stability and self-assurance that comes with true friendship.

Of the academia I do remember lie the novels that made me think about life from a new perspective, the art that made my mind weep and grin simultaneously, and the assignments that brought me out into the world to see it with my own eyes.

I cannot ramble on to share every valuable story these years have brought to me. I can, on the other hand, condense everything I learned in high school to three cliches:

1. Say “yes” to life

Years from now, you will not remember the people to whom you said “no”, the outings you did not attend, or the adventure you did not take on. What you will remember is what you did and how it made you feel. Usually, we say “no” because we are afraid of something; be it fear of rejection, failure, death, or change. It is only when you do something abnormal, something new, something that strays from our own self-expectations, that you will learn something about life.

It may be easy to live safely within your own comfort zone, but to truly live that way is not possible.

As former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do something every day that scares you”. This means not only stepping out of your comfort zone, but also pursuing fearlessness.

Once you venture out into that supposed dark and scary world, you might be pleasantly surprised to realize that it is not as dangerous as you previously thought. Try something new and keep your heart open.

2. Buy the ticket, take the ride

Being open-minded and welcoming to the world around you has its benefits, but keep in mind that each high life will grant you comes free with an inevitable crash. When you buy that ticket, whatever it may be, and choose to pursue that rush- learn to appreciate the chaotic, self-questioning, sickening, and depressing crash that will follow.

Everything that you do in this world will have a rose and a thorn; the more beautiful the flower, the sharper the thorn. Please, my dear reader, do not let this prevent you from picking the flower altogether.

Make sure to always take chances – even when you know ahead of time that they will hurt you. The alternative is to sit around, coast through life, and never see colour out of fear that there will be a prick in your finger when the day is done. Learn to love the negative consequences of living; after all, it is always better to feel on top of the world in one moment, and crushed beneath it the next, than to plateau your emotions to a stagnant normality.

Live fast, crash fast, and be proud that you were an active part of the world around you, be it for better or for worse.

3. Love

Of all the cliches and needle-point pillow mantras, love for everyone is probably the most prominent. In reality, the idea of boundless love for strangers is usually carried out as mere politeness and forced kindness with acquaintances.

Not to say that politeness and respect are not both essential facets of comradary and citizenship, they absolutely are, but we tend to naturally see ourselves as all-loving rays of sun while simultaneously maintaining a list of foes in the backs of our minds.

We often complain, if not to others than to ourselves, of the people in our lives that simply “rub us the wrong way”.

It may be difficult, but when that guy in the hallway insults you, or that girl from class is rude to you, tuck away your pride. Instead of ignoring it or trying to fight it, try to smile to that person, do something kind for him or her, and learn about his or her situation in life.

You might not be able to find any justification for these folks’ behavior, but you gain the upper hand of knowledge and understanding. You will find that if you truly take the initiative and force yourself to respect someone and learn about his life, his actions will make a lot more sense to you.

We often underestimate how much time we spend focused on our own lives, while neglecting to look within the eyes of those around us and truly listen. Although I myself will occasionally slip up in this regard, I firmly believe two things about love: first, that if you get to know anyone for long enough, and on a deep enough level, love will form inevitably. Secondly, that it is almost impossible to hate someone who goes out of her way to love you and respect you. Swallow your pride, immerse yourself in someone else’s life, and soon you’ll find yourself able to love and respect almost anyone.

As I wait to turn the page from one chapter of my life to the next, my thoughts are simultaneously hazy, confused, painfully nostalgic, regretful, grateful, and uplifting. Now more than ever, I am reliving my moments of glory, shame, peace, and chaos, and I would be lying to you if I told you that I have my shit together.

My years at WA have made me a little bit more of a dreamer, a little bit more of an insomniac, a little bit less steady, a little bit more confident, and overall, pretty crazy…

but God-damn, was it worth the ride!