A letter of memories

By Olivia Kwitny

I unsealed the letter. No, not the letter we seniors have been breathlessly expecting to receive in the mail all year, hoping it’s the acceptance letter to our dream college; no, not the letter from a sweet, doting grandmother or distant, withering uncle we haven’t seen in 12 years, telling us how proud they are of our accomplishments these past four years at that famous prep school located not far from decadent Hollywood—no, none of that.

This particular letter, frayed at the edges and a bit grimy from postal handling, allowed me to shamelessly brush away the cobwebs that have blurred my view of the past four years and proudly peek through a peephole into the life of an immature, curious, still growing, 10th-grade self.

As I read the passage describing the setting of this attempt at epistolary artistry, which was my algebra class with Kanwaljit Kochar, and another passage elaborating on the crush I had on a boy in the 10th grade, I came to the best part: I ended the letter with “Yes I’ve gone through some hard times, but as Luna said, “just be you.’” And so now, at 4:30 in the afternoon, as I recline on my couch at home, with my feet curled together cat-like on a pillow, living the “post-AP life,” I noticed myself tearing up.

I know, I know—it’s just a letter, but the letter reminded me of my former sophomore self. I’m not the same person today, now that classes are over and done with, now that welcoming letters from my college flutter into my mailbox daily, like little, white, rectangular swallows arriving home to nest. And oh, yes, it’s time to ferret out a summer job to help pay for the winter clothes I’ll need next winter, when blizzards and tornadoes settle on my new college.

And there’s the problem of routine, shattered: for the past three years, every day, Monday through Friday, I made my way down one of two flights of stairs that branch out like two carotid arteries from the campus’s knowing head (the administration building), feeling immersed in the school’s lifeblood; the other students and I are red blood cells carrying intellectual and spiritual oxygen to the many parts of the community—the community of Harvard-Westlake.

Once I had arrived at the bottom of the stairs, I was borne into the body of the school—the “quad.” Just as circulating blood stops to replenish other cells with vitamins, protein, and other nourishment, I glide through the organelles of our student body; all of us contributing to a general sense of harmonious symmetry.

Like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “transparent eyeball,” I saw myself as a spirit-filled entity, moving through the human landscape of the greater Harvard-Westlake community, observing and learning and living. No one will be able to duplicate such an experience.

Now as almost a Harvard-Westlake graduate, about to take that next step into the world of college, it is difficult, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said in Self-Reliance, to “trust thyself,” especially in a world that is comprised of influential parents, school, and institutions of society that bind a child to its constraints.

It is obvious there will be overwhelming forces trying to influence who we are and how to be. And so I say to the class of 2011, sometimes we will struggle to be airborne, losing altitude at times, but I can surely say as long as we embrace the experience at Harvard-Westlake that has molded and shaped us into the person we are today, we will manage to continually soar.