Farewell Letter

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Commentary by Christine Betts


 

I used to hate Lee’s Summit West’s guts. I was a new student freshman year and after the first few weeks relatives would ask on the phone about friends I had made and how I liked the new place. “None” and “Hate it” were typical responses.

As the year progressed, the situation stayed the same. I had made a few (wonderful) upperclassmen friends, but struggled to find my place amongst other freshmen. Half of my classes had little to no other freshmen in them and I found it hard to get to know people. I think it was extra difficult because I had never had problems making friends before and for some reason I was finding myself completely isolated. I felt like a failure.

Looking back, a lot of the year is really blurry in the way that not-so-fun times often get blocked out. I had no home at West and struggled to go to school every morning as I tried to time my arrival so I wouldn’t be stuck sitting in Mrs. Boulden’s first hour biology class by myself. Every day after school I would head home, plop down on the couch, and watch hours upon hours of Seinfeld, trying to escape my world of complete and utter loneliness.

I remember the days when we had block scheduling and all of the freshmen ate during the same lunch shift, meaning I was by myself without my usual sophomore lunch crew. I would hide in the bathroom hoping nobody would notice.

I had a lot of anxiety, so I put extreme effort into every ounce of my school work, and when second semester rolled around, a peer told me they’d heard I was “number one”. I had no idea what that meant, but, unfortunately, class rank was significant to many of my fellow freshmen. Chatter and gossip painted a picture of me that wasn’t accurate. People made assumptions and judgements that were just plain false, all because of a system that I didn’t sign up for and don’t value in any way.

The darkness continued to get darker and, as often comes with depression, the voice in my head telling me to off myself was a constant battle. I remember having violent thoughts… “what if I pulled at the steering wheel right now” or “what would happen if I drank this windex.” Instead of giving into that stuff, though, I saw my current situation as a challenge, a test of strength from the universe if you will.

That summer, a combination of things brought about a major change in my attitude. I read a book called “Radical Acceptance” and decided to start the next year differently. On the first day of sophomore year, I made a promise to myself that I was going to join every club I could and be as outgoing and friendly as possible. I felt like a blossoming butterfly as I made more and more friends and increased my involvement in school; as foreign as it felt, I started to enjoy going to school every morning. As the year progressed, I made friends and joined every club imaginable and suddenly West wasn’t so cold anymore.

Since then, I’m not going to say that life’s been perfect, but after feeling so isolated, it’s hard not to love a life full of great friends and a sense of belonging. My farewell letter after freshman year would have been a snarky one. Hopefully this one feels a bit more sincere. And while it has nothing to do with my job as web editor or time in newspaper, none of that would exist had I not decided to take some risks my sophomore year. Our experiences shape who we are and how we see the world, so now that all is said and done, I’m grateful that I had the chance to see the world through a new set of lenses.

I’m not talking about this stuff because I want pity or to be seen differently or because I particularly like talking about it, but it’s important to realize that sometimes people have a lot more going on that what appears on the surface and should be treated with compassion no matter what. Our society doesn’t really like to talk about these kinds of things because we prefer to pretend that everything is okay, even when it isn’t. So if you’re in a tough spot yourself and reading this, take this advice: join clubs, be kind to people, and don’t be afraid to reach out to an adult (we have lots of cool ones at West) and tell them what’s going on.

And while I may have a plethora of issues with our education system (none of which I was allowed to elaborate upon in the senior survey) I want this to act as a reminder that Lee’s Summit West is a truly incredible place. ACT scores and graduation rates aside, we’ve got teachers that care, incredible faculty and a beautiful campus. Thanks to West I’ve grown immensely as a person and have checked all (at least in some capacity) of my goals off the little list I made the summer before sophomore year.

Peace out kiddos, keep it real and don’t forget to enjoy life. Sometimes it’s hard to do that when you’re concerned about your numbers. Choose to live with purpose and to search for personal fulfillment in all that you do.

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