Boxed in, fetal position, between three hard surfaces - legs folded against the concrete wall, backs lying on the sticky tile floor, chins tucked in to rest heads on the metal lockers - in layers of pajama pants, kilts and hoodie sweatshirts. How many hours have we spent after school in that little rectangular world at the back of the locker room?
Enough so that in one sitting, the entire spectrum of human emotion passes through.
You cried and you tried to hide it but you couldn’t and we tried to stop it but there was nothing anyone could do. Because the whole world is a box and it’s expanding into nothing and it’s only if you close your eyes and invert the entire picture, reach right into the center and squeeze the Saran wrap, twist and rip it off, that any of it really makes any sense. How can numbers and letters mean anything when we are all going to end up as bright specks of energy? Someday we are going to outrun light and we will turn around to watch our image catch up. But we’ll be too fast.
It’s so easy to lose perspective and stumble to fall into pace with the drum rolls of “honor,” and all the calculators maiming you on your way down the stairs. But try to step back, stop repeating that self-deprecating man-tra, the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.
We are all going to figure it out without killing ourselves. We will all find a place to be, a little niche to sit in; maybe it will be one that only a few others know about, but it will be comfortable and peaceful and beautiful all the same. Because it’s the people you meet and the things you do and the ideas you share that give life value, not your GPA, not what college you go to, or any other stupid method people make up to evaluate you and stick you in a box.
Life is not a board game. There is no set pathway or finish line - there’s no road to success. We go where we please. We win if we say we win because we make up the rules. That’s how it’s always been, and the people who don’t see that are just boxing themselves in. Don’t let them box you, too.
Damn the Man! No school name could ever do you justice anyway - you are perfect and radiant and human and infinite. And I am better just for having known you. All of you.
So please don’t cry, because we live on a lake and we roast marshmallows on a fire on the bank and trees surround us and lean over us and the sun melts a path onto the tide and the mist is cool on our skin and we are gods in Avalon.
And that’s better than any institution. You are better. And never let anyone tell you otherwise. Even you.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.