When I came home this past Saturday night, having eschewed a kickback in favor of a quiet night to get down to work and finally write this column, I was greeted instead by dozens of cars parked curbside on my typically unfrequented street. It turned out a substantial number of students from Calabasas High were partying it up post-prom just a few doors down.
Even in my bedroom I could hear the bass thudding and kids cheering. The thought of opening my window, channeling my inner crotchety eighty-year-old man and yelling, “Get off my lawn!” occurred more than once.
Of course, I’ve never been able to be that concise (just ask my English teachers). If I had the stamina and the volume, I might have added that, well, not to be elitist, but where I went to school, we have the decency to refrain from such Project X-like displays of adolescence (or at least pull them off more subtly), and sometimes finished up our prom nights with waffle-making and record-listening instead of a spiritual continuation of prom itself (I swear this thing had a DJ).
I could have gone on in this disgruntled vein for quite a while. Being judgmental is kind of my forte. But as has been usual lately, I was interrupted by my memory of what a friend is fond of telling me: that everything I do and say, that the person that I am, is utterly predictable. At that moment, the most “me” thing I could have been doing was berating my peers for daring to have fun accompanied by bass drops instead of by jazz. As for channeling an eighty-year-old man, more than just one of my friends is fond of telling me I am an old man. A couple weeks ago Ted Walch himself, age 72, without any foreknowledge of my exercise regimen or lack thereof, addressed me in solidarity when discussing his age-induced inability to do a sit-up.
Sometimes I suspect I’m turning into a caricature of myself. All I have to reassure me the transformation isn’t complete is that this column isn’t just a collection of book recommendations (but while we’re on the topic, I implore you all to read some Joan Didion if you ever want to get anywhere close to understanding California, and “Mrs. Dalloway” if you ever want to get anywhere close to understanding humans, and Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” if you ever want to get anywhere close to understanding chaos, and “Infinite Jest” if you ever want to get anywhere close to understanding how people’s imperfect minds work and also maybe my heart).
Still, it feels inevitable. After wearing a grandpa sweater every day of the week or referencing “Mrs. Dalloway” yet again in AP Lit or using the word “mellifluous” in Facebook chat I’ve despaired to myself: how did I let this happen? It’s like my inner being isn’t constantly changing and becoming, but carved out of non-eroding rock.
I’ve answered this should-be-rhetorical question many times: Harvard-Westlake let this happen. Because I wouldn’t be the person I am if I hadn’t gone to Harvard-Westlake, right? Harvard-Westlake helped mold me into this predictable conglomeration of bookishness and sarcasm, yes? The point of this column, I think, is to say goodbye to Harvard-Westlake, and maybe I’m eager to say goodbye to this place and the person I’m trapped into being here.
I’m leaving out something important about prom. Before the waffles and the jazz, back at Loews Hollywood itself, I danced. And not for one reluctant song. I danced a lot, probably more than I have danced in all the rest of my eighteen years. I admittedly skipped the slow dance (sorry I don’t endorse misogynists like Chris Brown), but I danced just as much as the teenagers still caterwauling outside my window.
Predictable, crotchety-old-man me doesn’t dance. The shy, socially awkward twelve-year-old who entered seventh grade with a wardrobe consisting of little more than Beatles T-shirts didn’t dance. But it seems post-six-years-of-Harvard-Westlake me, if placed under enough duress (i.e. the fight-or-flight situation that is prom), dances. And no one, not even me, could have predicted that.
Calabasas High wouldn’t have turned me into an occasional dancer. Harvard-Westlake—its students, its teachers, its classes, its programs—did. (Shout-out to the Latin program and, of course, Chronicle—Weiler is home.) There are only two ways you know you’re ready to say goodbye to someone or something: if you’re completely and wholeheartedly sick of it (e.g. the afterparty in my backyard), or if it’s fulfilled you in some crucial way. (Fulfillment, by the way, is a different animal than love; even if you don’t love this school, I hope somehow it’s fulfilled a necessary part of you.) Sure, I’m sick of the stairs and the cafeteria’s food options and some less harmless aspects of the school that will remain unnamed, but above all 3700 Coldwater Canyon has fulfilled me. Come June 6, I think I’ll be able to wave goodbye.