Friday, June 7, 2013

Late last night, I had a moment of heart-stopping nervousness. Today, my brother graduates from High School. It's a day of caps and gowns, of celebrations with valedictorian speeches, diplomas and certificates. Tomorrow, the start of a new chapter will mark his life. 

Originally, I wrote this down (thought it out in my head) for him, and had planned on putting it in his graduation card. But I realized what I had to say to him could be said to many others, not just grad students. It's something I wish had been said to me when I graduated in 2009, thrilled I managed to pass yet terrified of what was yet to come. Anyone who feels stuck, lost in the middle, or unsure of their footing in life, this is for you. Print it out if you must, write it down and tack it on a wall, or read it and move on. Either way, I'm glad you took a minute to read it.


There are only a few things you need in life. Happiness is one of them. 

By now, you know pretty well how the story of my High School nightmare went. The transcripts of my grades, hidden somewhere in this house, would show you a different side of things. Yes, I failed classes. Failed them miserably. Yes, I took Summer School, and Dad paid a whopping $150 for it, $135 of which I still need to pay back. But this isn't a lecture about trying not to fail school, or to not bite off more than you can chew. This is a message about finding happiness in the gray areas. I'm living proof that if you dream it hard enough, and you never quit no matter how much it hurts, that you can achieve anything.

In High School, junior year, I failed English. 

You already know that, but I feel the need to repeat it. Maybe you're asking, "Why? You're an author, you've won awards, made countless friends and fans along the way. How did you do that if you failed English?" 

I'll tell you why; because I was lost. I was not happy. Junior year of High School is one of those pivotal moments when people like to shove their thoughts down your throat. You'll be pressured into career ideas you don't care for, harassed by everyone who thinks college is the only way to get anything done, snubbed for the idea of taking an alternate route. Junior year is 'The Year'; you either make it, or break in half trying. 

Ten dollars says you know what happened to me. 

I broke. All around me, things were falling to pieces. I wasn't comfortable in my skin, and even though I had friends I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere. The same questions always came up- "What colleges did you apply to? What are you going for?" Imagine the nightmare when, shocker, I had to tell everyone I failed Junior Year, and by the skin of my teeth and Dad spotting me the cash for Summer School, I managed to still advance to Senior Year, but only if I doubled on the failed classes from Junior Year to make up those credits. 

You'd think, after that scare, I'd become a model student. Straight A's, perfect attendance, exemplary child. Not even close. 

Senior Year was just as hellish as Junior, only worse in some ways. Like Hell, the fire burned deeper than a superficial wound as I fell out of love, lost friends over trivial things, and became even more self-conscious about myself. By a miracle beyond all miracles, I graduated in 2009 with my class. I'll never forget sitting in those chairs, sobbing after I walked down the aisle to my seat, and everyone around me asking why I was crying. 

It was because I managed the impossible. It was because I graduated against all odds that said it wouldn't happen. It was the first time I had a taste of what happiness felt like, and I started on the path to where I am now. 

From 2009 to 2011, things moved up and down in wild highs and lows. I wish I could tell you that, post-graduation, I had a happy fairy-tale style ending and went off to achieve perfection. But I can't, that would be lying. Instead, I'll tell you the truth. For roughly two years, I struggled in a weekend job that stole 31 hours of my time, and carried the taste happiness from graduation in the back of my throat like a wild dream nearly forgotten. 

Somewhere in 2011, something snapped. I was tired of trying to be put into this box of what others labeled as 'okay'. I wasn't built for college, that much was obvious; I was built to write, dammit, and write I would. My declaration wasn't met with the round of applause you'd hope for, but I pushed on, and in January of 2012, Illumine made its first appearance. 

Why am I giving you a play-by-play? Not because I feel you need it, but because I need to stress something, something I wish one person had stressed to me in those critical years. You can be anything you want in life, you can get anything you want out of life, you just need to keep pushing forward and find happiness. 

Look, if anyone can say there's a happy ending along the way, it's me. I freaking bombed English, graduated with some of the crappiest grades known to mankind, and here I am living the dream. I refused to quit no matter how hard it hurt, and no matter how painful it got. And now it's your turn to do the same. 

So go off to college, or go right into the work force. Start drafting that new novel, or planning a house design. Build a website, build ten of them. Just remember to do what makes you happy, because without happiness, it's going to be an empty, dark place. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Alivia. This sentiment was exactly what I needed today after hearing someone else's perception of me.

    I'm a firm believer in never giving up. But ever so often, you run into a person or person who find extreme joy in tearing down you and/or your aspirations. This beautiful post reminded me of my belief.

    In the words of Vanessa Williams, "the best revenge is success."

    Thanks again and much (more) success to ya! ヅ