Live and Learn

To the Class of 2009:

Every year in May, like the Chronicle geek that I am, I look forward to reading the senior columns. For those of you not quite as conscientious about it as I am, they are great — they are written for the last issue of Chronicle when the senior class is feeling its most vulnerable and nostalgic. The columns have a kind of “to hell with it,” “total access,” “priceless jewels of wisdom” attitude about them, and they read a little like dear-diary entries. I mean that in the best way possible.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I feel like I already have one foot out the door of Harvard-Westlake. I spend half my time worrying about where I am going next year and the other half wishing it were second semester. Whenever someone makes plans for next year, I get a little sick to my stomach. No point in making plans now, it’s all about the next generation.

Anyway, I decided to revisit the senior columns from last year, thinking I couldn’t go wrong with a healthy dose of irony and melodrama. I was wrong — they scared me half to death. Almost every column looked back over the writer’s years at Harvard-Westlake and found deep-seated regret. I thought about our class in eight months. About my as–yet–unborn senior column. About how the worst time to realize that we missed out on some huge, vitally important experience is up against a deadline at 11 p.m. in the Chronicle room two days before Senior Dodger night. So I thought I’d take a more pro-active approach. It’s only October, so if we listen to the advice of ’08 we may still be able to learn from their regrets and avoid our own. Here are a few examples:

1) “What I think this school really needs is to take a step back and realize that this is just high school. Why can’t people who like to sing, for example, just sing for fun, instead of constantly thinking about technical precision?” — Ali Pechman ’08

2) “I want so badly to have something profound to say here; some life changing words that will immortalize my name at 3700 Coldwater Canyon long after I’m gone. But the truth is I don’t. Not here. Not now. But someday I will. And I think that’s what I learned at Harvard-Westlake.” — David Alpert ’08

3) “Ever since about a month into eighth grade, I resolved that Harvard-Westlake was simply terrible. The pressure! The competition! The snobbery! I complained and lamented for so long that it became impossible for me to open up my eyes and see that Harvard-Westlake is an awfully amazing place.” — Annie Dreyer ’08

Now before I go on I have to admit that this column is deeply flawed. It’s a cardinal rule of columns that if you present a problem you have to present a solution. I promise I really did plan on having a solution paragraph, or bullet points that detailed how we, the class of 2009, could avoid all this grief. I was going to tell Kate Liebman that yes, I would love to learn Arabic and Nick Berman that I would watch his sports broadcast even though I hate sports. But I realized that my “suggestion box” was not a recipe for satisfaction and that nothing I said could be. All I can do is get the ball rolling.

4) So I saved this last slot for myself. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone. The other day I overheard someone say what a shame it is that our class isn’t spirited. That we are boring. I have to say that I respectfully disagree. It’s true that we haven’t hung air fresheners on the bushes or performed a rap and matching dance in the quad. So we’re different — big deal. Personally I think mayonnaise on the railing is a little over-used anyway. We have a lot of individual character — what I hope for our class this year is that we can put it all together and become true leaders on campus. So that next year, or in a few years, some rising senior hears another rising senior say, “Oh yeah, I remember they did that a few years ago. How come our class doesn’t (insert amazingly original and creative tradition here)?”