Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Abandon Ship: Or, Some Things I've Finally Figured Out About Life

Like many high school seniors, I celebrated my graduation with a "senior trip", although mine was a little different. For one, we left the week after the fourth of July, not immediately after graduation. Also, I was the only senior aboard.

From left to right: Layla (10 months), Natalee (17), Erica (18), Bonnie (12), Hanna (16), Ashlin (16), and Carly (15). Not pictured: Camille (20), who had to leave early
My family owns a 1/6 time share of a houseboat in Lake Powell, a giant freshwater lake in the middle of the Arizona-Utah desert. Our boat has air conditioning, a flat screen TV, a water slide, and two bathrooms. Deal, right? I thought so. But I couldn't get a single one of my senior friends to go.
Since we only have one sixth of the summer, we meet with the other houseboat owners midwinter to assign weeks. Our family's prep and planning for the trip starts a month or two in advance. They needed to know how many friends I had early on, so I started recruiting well before the summer, only to be turned down by literally everyone I counted as a friend throughout high school.
A few of them had legitimate excuses. "I'll be in Montana that week" or  "I'm spending eleven days in Israel for my graduation trip and I won't be able to get more time off."
But most of them didn't. One girl got a fast food job the week before we left and didn't bother asking for time off. The restaurant is so lenient, they let my friend Tessa work just Saturday shifts all through the school year so she could balance homework and lacrosse. If she'd told them "I can start a week from Monday," they would have let her. Another girl told me in May, "I don't plan that far ahead, so let's just go with no." But my favorite is the girl who, when invited in February (this is a July trip), said, "I can't. I'm cleaning my room."
I've been in her room. It's not that big. Plus, she said she needed to "get it ready for college". She's living at home for college.
So I brought four of my neighborhood friends instead. Three of them have stuck by my side since elementary school. One's a newer edition to my neighborhood, but she's been there for me in my darkest hours. My sophomore friend brought her younger sisters along. The more the merrier, right? When we were done, the ages of our party ranged from twelve to twenty.
I talked with my boss weeks in advance to make sure I could get it off. Camille took time off as well, and she had to leave early for a family reunion, but she committed to as much of the week as she possibly could. There's always room when you make it.
The day before we left, one of my fifteen year old brother's friends called us up to say that by some miracle, football practice had been canceled for the next week. Could he tag along? This was my trip, so my brother and parents turned to me for an answer. I almost declined out of petty jealousy. Did he really need a friend? Why should he have this miracle last-minute friend when mine said no six months in advance?
But I let him come. I'm proud of my brother and wish I would've been more like him at his age. Confident, fun loving, and surrounded by friends. All friends bring drama at the worst times, but no friend should bring you loneliness at anytime.
Then the morning of the trip, I had a dream that Hanna called. She said she'd accepted an unpaid job running the tech for a play in a city an hour away from our home. For an hour, I lay in bed, unable to separate dreams and reality. I wondered how the driving arrangements, meal plan, and other details would work with her gone. But most of all I wondered why all of my friends would put absolutely anything before me and my trip.
Hanna Snow's photo.
Hanna, Queen of the Cliffs
I told Hanna about my dream on the way down, and she laughed. The same sort of "that's absurd" laugh people gave when I told them about my friends who bailed. That is, when they're not staring at me in slack jawed stupor or asking if my friends are druggies. She told me she wouldn't miss my trip for the world.
That's when I finally realized the truth: I hung out with derps all through high school. One time I invited six girls to a backyard party. One of them asked me to take a picture of her on our two person swing. The next day, I found it on facebook with the caption, "Nothing says summer alone than being on one of these by yourself."
In the end, I'm glad for the way my trip turned out. The kind of people who can't stand the stress of talking to a boss, leaving Mommy's side for a week, or marking a date on a calendar wouldn't be able to handle jumping off thirty five foot cliffs or hurtling over the water on a jet ski at fifty miles an hour. They'd spend the whole trip lying in our stuff cubby bunks with three foot ceilings. We had our quieter adventures: lying out on the top deck, heart to hearts on the beach, and hiking the desert rocks in search of cell service. But after the best week of  my life, I've decided that I'm not built just for safe harbors.

Life, especially teenage life, is supposed to be enjoyed. I didn't realize that through most of high school. A lot of my older posts talk about how "real" teenage life is actually pretty boring. I now know that I misrepresented teenagers as a whole, that I took my experience and tried to make it universal. Real friends make an effort to see you outside of school more than a few times a year. Normal friends talk to you on a Friday night, not just in class. True friends are there for you in the light, not just your darkest hours.
I am eighteen years old. I laugh without fear of the future. I'm proud of every passion and pain my teenage year brought me, and now I'm a young adult. I have a fabulous, colorful, lovely, adventure filled life ahead of me, and nobody, friend or foe, is going to stop me from living it.

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