By Lesley Whitaker
June 6 is fast approaching, and somehow I am graduating.Â Itâs unreal. Most of us have been here six years â a third of our lives. Looking back now, it seems so long ago; sometimes I see a person I havenât spoken to since an eighth grade English class, and how weâve all changed! We have grown up together. Weâre taller and more mature; weâre older and more sophisticated. And only now itâs struck me how much time has passed.Â
When we first arrived here, we kept to our old friends; we were the âMirman kidsâ or the âSt. Matthewâs kidsâ or the âCenter kids,â but pretty soon all of that melted away and were all proudly Harvard Westlake Wolverines. We identify ourselves with Harvard Westlake: we are its students and it is our school.Â For me itâs become a comfortable fact, knowing that I attend this school and knowing I will the next year.Â But next year is college and I feel strange about this new loss of identity.
I owe Harvard-Westlake so much. I canât put in words how much Iâve learned and what Iâve experienced. Harvard-Westlake taught me invaluable qualities that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, such as confidence, strength and inner determination. Iâve been lucky enough to have extraordinary teachers and great friends.Â
But at the same time, I feel as though my time at Harvard-Westlake is truly at a close.Â I realized this only recently, now I have time to look back and reflect on my years here.
In the midst of the junior year workload, or this yearâs college applications, I didnât have a chance to take a step back and see how much I hated it.Â Not every memory of this school is a happy one. In 2002 I chose this school because I knew it would be challenging and eye-opening, but six years later I know I must leave this place.
Iâm tired of the never-ending competition of this school. Iâm tired of fighting to be recognized and feeling bad about perfectly good grades. Iâm tired of stretching myself too thin and never having enough time for things I really love.
Part of me feels sorry for my peers going to huge, competitive universities because the cutthroat atmosphere will be there too, and probably more intense. I will not be sorry to leave that part of Harvard-Westlake behind.Â I canât wait to go to the open arms of my small, liberal arts college, to the causal environment that doesnât sacrifice academics for its laid back setting.
I will receive my diploma with mixed feelings. Iâll be nostalgic for middle school dance production, swim and water polo teams, Chronicle and all of the great people Iâve come to know. But I know that leaving this school is the best option for my peace of mind.Â Â Â Â
Overall, for all its imperfections, at least where I am concerned, I do love this school for shaping who I am today. I will never forget my six laughter-filled, hard-working, stressful, wonderful years at Harvard-Westlake.Â