Best Years of Our Lives?

James Manso graduates from Scripps Ranch High School on Monday, June 15. He will attend NYU in the fall, majoring in journalism and communications with a minor in creative writing. He wrote columns for the SRCA Newsletter over the past year, and we thank him for his time and insight into life at SRHS and as a teenager in this day and age. The title for James’ column, “Where the Coffee Never Stops,” is inspired by a nonfiction piece by his favorite nonfiction writer, Joan Didion.

A few years ago, before I discovered the magical qualities of coffee and every inhale felt like an uphill battle, I wrote in the back of my biology notebook that things would never change, that I would stay in high school forever, and that my life would never open up the uncertainties of a future beyond high school. I don’t think this sobering entry was the product of a logical rationalization, but I don’t think it’s untrue. Much of my high school experience was me despairingly waiting for high school to end.

Well, my peers and I finally made it. I walked out of my final AP test on a Friday in May and I knew I had reached some sort of dreamlike oasis. In a few short months I will be living 3,000 miles away, with only two of my former 529 peers—one of them being my best friend. And perhaps it’s because I’ve always been devastatingly sentimental, but I couldn’t help but think of these past four years as they have worked together to make my peers and myself who we are today.

I remember with shocking clarity the first day of our freshman year. It was humid and a summer storm was passing—which felt like a treat because we never get summer storms—and none of us knew where our classes were. I remember feeling the confliction of finally leaving a terrible year in middle school behind—because who actively enjoys the painful metamorphosis of the early teenage years?—and having another four in front of me that no amount of black leather planners could really predict the final result of.

I write here, four years later, about somebody who used to be me: the schoolboy with the Jansport backpack, barely keeping his head above the waterline with the physical and emotional stress of high school, ready to return home. I now walk with a little bit more grace, more aligned posture, ending a day in an entirely different home, but with more exhaustion. Our hero has not reached tragic stature, but he does not believe that all fairy tales have happy endings anymore.

That being said, high school has not been a tragic event cured only by the panacean act of running away to college, but growing up is by no means easy. I think we all have been pushed into something greater than we could grapple with 100% of the time. Growing up is like walking into a room with the walls stripped bare: those who have finished and entered the backyard garden may not remember the icy surprise of jumping into the cold pool of adulthood. I say this because we have been told for the past four years to enjoy high school, that it would be the best four years of our lives. With these past four years behind me, I don’t disagree.

The pain of high school comes from having to constantly keep moving. We are focused on our futures, our careers, or maybe just the final bell on Friday. We do not stop moving forward. Such a rapid pace requires us to promptly move on from the crushes who didn’t text back, the tests we didn’t study for, or the friends who didn’t end up being who we thought they were. Moving on can be hard, but moving on means development, constantly springing forward to the next project.

Although we all were focused on ourselves, out to get what was the best for us, I think what makes high school those “best years” is the camaraderie involved with spending four years riding a streetcar named desire to the graduation stage. We all put in our work, we all felt each blow to our self-esteem, and learned to banish self-doubt. And we did it together.

One of the benefits of going to such a large public school is definitely the diversity. An upper middle-class neighborhood sounds like it would have the diversity of the mayonnaise shelf in the Vons I used to work at on Scripps Poway Parkway. But we were all exposed to so many different types of people. My English class alone—my favorite class senior year, with the exception of the beloved yearbook I edited —was filled with so many high achievers who always encouraged each other to see works differently and to look at how we would apply that to our lives.

We put in these past four years with one another. And even though we are walking in our cap and gown off the stage as different people than we were when we first walked to get our schedules on that humid and rainy day, I hope we do not forget the people we once were, and I hope we do not forget each other.

James Manso, SRHS Graduate