Oak Park High School graduation is Thurs., May 24, and as senior student Sunaina Nigam prepares to leave school and travel abroad to take part in Boston University’s London Program, she felt moved to write this farewell letter to her classmates. We think the advice is excellent.
Since it’s nearly impossible to summarize the importance of high school in just one letter, I’m going to tell you about the day I had not too long ago.
If any of you have seen me walking around school, you’d probably see a grumpy-looking girl with her arms crossed and her headphones in—making me, so I’m told, very unapproachable.
For the past years, I tried to keep the school world as far away from me as I possibly could. Maybe that was my way of being cool, or maybe it was teen angst, or maybe my very own minuscule rebellion. But in reality, I was just isolating myself from classmates . . . waiting for my ticket out of town to arrive. With headphones in, people out, I was waiting to jump into the big, scary world outside.
But one recent morning I made the drastic mistake of forgetting my headphones at home. Annoyed, and ears empty, I arrived at school. And something strange happened. I was listening. I was listening to everyone around me for the first time in a very long time. Strangely, I was approached by more people that day than I had been in the past year combined. I listened as one enthusiastic freshman talked to me about the brutalities of zero period. I listened as Conrad, whom I had known since fifth grade, asked how I was. I listened as a junior girl named Abby asked for advice about how to navigate the intimidating and intricate college application process.
Now after every one of these unusual interactions I felt the same unfamiliar feeling, one that had been with me all day on this day without headphones.
Yes, happiness from human interaction—though most were quick chats or casual hellos—all of them had a lasting effect on me.
Like many of you, I’m all about getting out there, exploring the world, immersing myself in different cultures, lifestyles and people. And yet, waiting to get there, I missed the importance of my surroundings altogether. If I had ended my teen angst phase earlier on, I would have sooner appreciated all the kindness that Oak Park High School exudes.
The students, the faculty and our parents combined are genuine to their core. We advocate for each other. We celebrate the diversity of our students. We expand our minds and embrace knowledge and new-thinking. But most importantly, we love one another.
ESPN sportscaster Brian Kenny is quoted as saying, “There’s no there. That elusive ‘there’ with the job, the beach house, the dream, it’s not out there. There, is here. It’s in you . . . right now.”
So, my ending note to you is this. Throw the headphones out and embrace the present moment. Take a look around. Listen to those around you, connect with those who cross your path. Embrace the happiness generated from humans simply loving humans.
And as you embark into this wonderful world of ours, always take a second to be here now.