I almost went to Brentwood. Harvard-Westlake waitlisted me. I guess there was something on my application that made them think I wasn’t up to snuff, wasn’t good enough so that, now, in the week before graduation, I wonder whether it was all worth it, whether I should’ve gone to Brentwood and what was meant by my initial failure to be admitted.
Week one. That was the only week I seriously doubted the value of a Harvard-Westlake education. I was in English class when I received the first book of my Harvard-Westlake English career, “Freak the Mighty.” The back cover called it young adult literature. I was only 12 years old at the time, but I remember thinking that whoever this young adult the publishers were referring to was must’ve been a whole lot younger than I was because the development of Max and Freak’s friendship seemed overly juvenile, at least for a school as fancy and well-reputed as Harvard-Westlake.
Brentwood. I cannot say I’m glad I went to Harvard-Westlake instead of Brentwood because I don’t know if that’s true. Brentwood could’ve been the best experience of my life. Their campus looks better. Their mascot is cooler. It’s 9.8 miles closer to my home.
The waitlist. The waitlist made me feel reluctantly wanted, like I had to prove myself because, unlike the other students, the school didn’t know whether I was actually meant to be there or even if it really wanted me. I’m glad I got waitlisted. The need to show the administration that when they thought waitlist they thought wrong has encouraged me throughout my time here to try to take advantage of every opportunity offered, in part to prove a point but also because I realize that all this, the campus, the teachers, the students, was so close to not being mine. I have to travel more than 40 miles every weekday getting to and from school. I have to walk up and down more stairs than anyone’s willing to count during passing periods because someone thought it would be a good idea to put a high school on the side of a mountain. I have to wear sports clothes that proudly advertise “Wolverines,” an animal also known as the skunk bear, because I go to this school, but when I share these struggles with students from other institutions and they ask me, “Why would you ever go there,” I always tell them, “Because it’s worth it.”
“Freak the Mighty” was not a good book, but it was the perfect choice for my first Harvard-Westlake read. It is about two very different people, Freak, the smart weak one, and Max, the strong dumb one, coming together in an unlikely friendship to create, as one person comprised of two, a boy who is both strong and smart. Coming to this school as a boy with a moderate amount of strength and a moderate amount of intelligence, Harvard-Westlake has been my Freak and my Max, and as I prepare to depart, I can see now better than ever how mighty it has helped me to become. I almost went to Brentwood. It could’ve been the best experience of my life, but it wasn’t. Harvard-Westlake was.