Tackling the Thank-You’s

Ally Stapleton, Editor in Chief

I’ve had a long and happy relationship with words; since the earliest days my hands could shakily trace out the alphabet, I’ve been filling up notebooks at an abnormally fast rate with journal entries, short stories, emotionally charged essays, un-paragraphed rants, poems, letters I never sent, and other arrangements of words that don’t exactly fall under an easily named category. For some reason, though, it seems like words are simply insufficient right now. Or maybe just too slippery – I can’t seem to wrap them around exactly what I feel as I flip the last page of this first chapter of my life.

High school graduation has always seemed like this hugely enormous yet nebulous thing, something that will happen eventually in theory but, from even just 19 days away, still seems like it will never quite arrive. And as it approaches, there are a million things that I still want to say. After all the words I’ve written down in those journals and spoken in countless conversations over the past 17 years, I feel as if there is an entire galaxy of words I never quite got out, a universe’s worth of things I noticed and heard and felt that never made their way into words. That mound of amorphous, unworded things bothers me.

I won’t try to tackle that whole pile in this column. That’s partially to prevent you from closing this tab on your phone or computer and moving on to the words of someone whose thoughts are a little more streamlined, but it’s also because not even I can get my brain to remember all the words I need to say. In the words I have allotted to me here, however, I’ll attempt to tidy up one section of that mound: the thank-you’s.

These thank-you’s are for all the people who have saved me in ways both big and small over the past four years I’ve spent in high school and the 17 I’ve spent on this planet. Chances are, you did it without even knowing. Maybe you didn’t actually do anything for me in the literal sense; perhaps it was just your existence on this earth that at some point gave me something I needed. I owe you for that, and these words are all I have to pay that debt.

IMG_4270The sentence “I’d like to thank my parents” sounds painfully cliche. But not only would I like to thank my parents, I need to. I owe my mom the deepest gratitude for giving up her career and devoting more than 17 years to me. I’m sure that at many times I seemed like a very unworthy cause: those times I yelled at you and ignored your polite inquiries as to how my day went and complained about meatloaf and ditched you for my friends without a second glance back. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for all the sacrifices you made to make my life better; I promise they made a difference. And Dad? I need to thank you for a million little things that added up to the very big thing of my belief that you are the best man on the planet. Thank you for reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to me (with all the voices) when I was a little kid and for changing the ending of Charlotte’s Web when you thought it would be too sad for me to handle. Thank you for letting me tag along on your 4 a.m. runs around Reeds Lake. Thank you for your foot massages and your Uncle Merwin stories and for coaching every sports team I ever played on. Thank you for consistently doing those tiny things; my promise to you is that I noticed, even when I pretended not to.

Thank you to all the teachers who have rolled in and out of my life in 9-month school-year cycles. Thank you Mrs. Hard, for being so impressed with my 2nd grade story “The Room at the End of the Hall.” Your praise made me feel prouder than you knew. Thank you, Mr. McKelvey, for complimenting my socks every day. I’m sure you don’t remember doing that, but it made me smile, knowing each time I pulled on a pair of the brightly patterned socks my fifth-grade self found so stylish that I would receive at least one compliment that day. Thank you, Mrs. Carey, for giving me a B- on my “If Kids Ruled the School” poem in sixth grade; I haven’t settled on an essay or other piece of writing since. Thank you Mr. Lowe for taking personal interest in my life during my shaky transition into ninth grade, and for genuinely caring about how I’ve fared since I left your civics class. Thank you Ms. Scobell, for your humor and your crazy projects and for showing me that writing does matter. Thank you, especially, Mr. George, for believing I could be partially in charge of this wonderful part of FHC called the Central Trend, and for caring about my life outside your room just as much as you care about my work inside it.IMG_0751

A particular thank-you must go to my cross country team. I truly don’t know what these past four years would have been without you. I will never forget freezing with you on all those frosty Saturday mornings at obscure sites around West Michigan, or the long hours we spent running around golf courses and high school campuses and parks cheering for each other. What I will forget is the pain, because you made it all worth it. I wouldn’t trade all the rain and the mud and the suffering for anything.

Thank you to my sisters, the two best friends I’ve found in my 17 years of life. Abby, thank you for filling the role of the quintessential big sister so well.Thank you our spontaneous adventures and movie nights. Thank you for never making your annoying little sister feel annoying; thank you for making me feel important and interesting and loved. Catherine, thank you for enjoying my same weird brand of fun (I’m nearly positive there is no one else who would allow me to listen to the soundtrack from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on the way to school) and for spending more time with me than any other single person in the world; I don’t know how you do it.

IMG_4312

This time next year, I won’t remember trigonometry, or how to say “hairstylist” in Spanish, or the Universal Law of Gravitation, or the Taylor series for cosine of x (my apologies to Mr. Smith, Señora Dykhouse, Mrs. Stone, and Mrs. Mills, respectively). To be honest, I probably won’t remember all the people I owe thank-you’s to. But as this four-year journey dissolves into a pool of goodbyes and miss you’s and thank you’s and wow-I’ll-never-see-you-again’s and all we have left are the memories, I know that I will remember how all of it summed together made me feel. I know I will remember that I spent my final days in high school with a smile on my face, and if you are reading this, I need to thank you for being part of that. All I have right now is the words of this column to do so; they are insufficient and imprecise and, overall, inadequate. But they are my offering to you.

So to the people who will be with me long after I leave high school, to those I’ll never see again, and to everyone who has shared this four-year adventure with me: out of all those words I’ve played around with since the earliest days of my childhood, the only two that seem to fit right now are thank you. So thank you. Thank you for all of it. Though there’s so much more I want to say, I think “thank you” covers all that’s important.