Appreciate your full backpack

James Hur

A few days ago, I emptied my backpack for the first time in three years. A bit too excited I completed my academic obligations, I opened the zipper and allowed everything to crash down from four feet above the ground. Unfortunately, my Spanish book landed on my stubby toe.

But once my pain subsided, I surveyed the objects lost in the heap of disorderly papers. Most of the objects – notebooks, folders, books – were expected from a high schooler but occasionally poking out from the haystack of papers were things that swept me into a wave of nostalgia. As I shuffled through the mass of papers, I found my Moleskin journal from 10th grade. At one point, I briefly wrote daily journal entries. However, nothing then seemed to justify continuing to write in the journal: the awkward feeling of addressing myself; the repetitive lists of what I did during that day; the endless question marks and ellipses and made-up punctuation that were written to fill the void that words could not. Eventually, I resorted to scribbling drawings, until I finally chucked the journal into my backpack, not to be seen for another three years.

My next memorabilia turned out to be my “lucky pencil.” A short, chewed Ticonderoga that has seen better days in its past. I always used it to fill out the multiple guess sections of exams, and it kept me company during those anxiety-inducing Chemistry tests in tenth grade. I’m certain almost everyone, at some point, had a little charm to comfort them during those lonely finals in Taper’s isolated cubicles.

Objects that needle at my memories were scattered throughout the haystack of papers: a business card from Choices and Challenges’ Planned Parenthood speaker, a Tide-to-Go pen for that time a clumsy friend spilled her Boba while we were going up the endless stairs at the upper school.

After cleaning up the mess, I folded the backpack, feeling the tattered fabric and seams on the sides. When I go through the little pockets, I find a small bump. It’s my Pokémon Sapphire game from 2004.

I had brought the game the first day of school in case I couldn’t meet new friends. I was never a “people person” (I’m sure you can tell I’m not an organized person either). But I never had to play my game; in fact, I forgot all about it. Not once did I feel isolated at Harvard-Westlake. I always met new people to meet at the oddly shaped hexagonal tables on the quad, or entertained myself with new activities or learned from the most inspiring teachers. In 10th grade, we lamented over the myriad of stairs on campus, bonded through the hardships of junior year, and found strength after defeating the college application process – together.

I have carried so many good memories on my back. Thank you Harvard-Westlake.