Being the Reality for Each Other's Daydreams
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Being the Reality for Each Other's Daydreams

I often write that my feelings are probably difficult for most people to understand because although we all struggle, we never struggle exactly alike. However, I am beginning to believe the reverse: although we never struggle exactly alike, we all struggle nonetheless.

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Being the Reality for Each Other's Daydreams

I am a day dreamer. When I am somewhere I don’t want to be, I daydream about the better places this unenjoyable moment can lead. In the depths of my depression, I daydreamt about walking across the stage at my Lawrenceville graduation. Until COVID took that away from me.

I wasn’t sure if I would attend Lawrenceville’s Class of 2020 graduation this summer. I told myself that high school was far behind me and that very few of my best friends would be able to make the weekend trip back. But it’s the midnight before I finally walk across my high school graduation stage and I can’t fall asleep, despite my alarm set to go off in five hours so that I can open Playa Bowls before.

I need this closure.

This is the day I had daydreamt about a year before my graduation. On those nights when I felt like ending it, I thought about that graduation stage. I would finally achieve what felt like the impossible; I would know that I was good enough for Lawrenceville.

My Lawrenceville experience was a miraculous journey. In hindsight, I had struggled with mental health my entire life – I tried leave this earth in middle school but, even then, I didn’t go through a depressive spell quite like I did at Lawrenceville. Instead, it took the heightened pressure and extraordinary stress of the Lawrenceville School’s social, athletic, and academic culture for my mental illness to display itself.

It started with sobbing after my first AAA girls ice hockey game, when I was paired on defense – a position I had never played – with Lawrenceville’s top player, a Princeton hockey commit and future U18 USA National player. She later would become my best friend at Lawrenceville, but she will never fail to remind me that our first conversation was via text after that game when she texted me that I did a great job (because her parents saw me crying in the parking lot and told her to text me). It next displayed itself in the countless nights I stayed awake until 3 and sometimes 4 in the morning just to complete a simple homework reading, in petrifying fear that I wouldn’t have anything good enough to say around the Harkness table if I was not adequately prepared for the next day’s class. It continued to show itself in my hockey and academic life as normal emotions that seemed to take over my entire being, and then it infiltrated into my social life. I was uncomfortable in my own skin around other people, always. I developed an extreme anxiety disorder, questioning every action I did and every word I said around other people. I was always on edge.

But then came the dreaded junior year English capstone final. The assignment requires us to answer any question of our choosing, and to spend an entire trimester developing our response into a 16-page paper, which then got edited down to 8. My question: Why is asking for help so difficult? For most people, this laborious assignment was dreaded. What kind of a question could I write about for 16 pages?

I never had this problem, though. That capstone allowed me to finally let my feelings come to fruition on a page. It let me reflect on the past year of the invisible pain I had struggled through. And it was the first time I shared my pain via my writing with people outside my closest inner-circle, open to critique around that dreaded Harkness table. That capstone led me to where I am today: typing my thoughts onto a computer screen to release that elephant of a pressure that weighs on my chest.

I thought I had closure from high school, I thought that my virtual graduation and all the weird quirks that came along with it had provided me the closure I needed. Until tonight; until I lay awake typing as I should be getting as much sleep as I can before my early wake up tomorrow.

But my daydream is finally becoming a reality. I am finally going to cross that Lawrenceville stage tomorrow, after watching so many of my friends do it themselves at their own graduations.

I often write that my feelings are probably difficult for most people to understand because although we all struggle, we never struggle exactly alike. However, I am beginning to believe the reverse: although we never struggle exactly alike, we all struggle nonetheless. Walking across the Lawrenceville graduation stage is no small feat for anyone. Whether you have battled mental illness, struggled with grades that did not reflect your effort, or dripped way too much sweat in Al Rashid to still be cut from that varsity team - our Lawrenceville experiences were all a struggle. I believe that we are all finally getting the chance to experience our daydream become our reality tomorrow.

I hope that as we walk across that stage, we are doing so first and foremost for ourselves. For everything that we, and our families, had to overcome to get us to that point. But I also hope that we are acknowledging what this campus has experienced in the past month. JR will never get to physically walk across that stage, but I hope we can each carry a bit of his legacy across with us.

In a compilation of videos from friends and family for my COVID graduation, my freshman year physics teacher told me that life is constructed of variables - many that we can control and more that we cannot. At the end of the day, though, it’s about controlling the ones we can and learning to adapt to the ones we cannot.

We cannot control what happened to JR now, but we can control how we let it affect us. We can all be kind, and we can all show love.

Although my original daydream was just to make it across that graduation stage, I choose to walk across that stage tomorrow not only with deep admiration for myself, but also with the reminder that sometimes we need those 16-page assignments, or those late-night Insomnia feeds, or just another person to feel heard. And likewise, although we may not be able to control what happens to each of us in our lives going forward, we can use our experience at Lawrenceville to control how we treat those around us. We can always lend a shoulder to that new-sophomore struggling with Harkness discussions, and we can always smile at that next stranger on Admitted Students Day, and we can always reach out to our distant freshman year friend who was placed in a different Crescent house than our own. Just as we have the ability to daydream very real possibilities, we also have the ability to be that reality for someone else.

Tomorrow is a special day for me because it is the moment I had daydreamt about when I felt like ending it all. But it also comes with a newfound pain of knowing next year there will be one less body walking across that stage than there should be. Although his body may never physically cross that stage, our delayed graduation has allowed us the opportunity to walk across the stage tomorrow with JR’s memory in tow, and to also to carry it beyond our short weekend within the Lawrenceville gates. We may not have all known him or his struggle, but we all have struggled within those gates. Tomorrow, our daydream of being good enough for Lawrenceville will finally become a reality, but I just hope we are all reminded that there are so many around us who need to be reminded that their daydreams, too, can become a reality. I hope our experiences within those gates will encourage us to be kinder to one another, and to never miss the opportunity to share just how much we all mean to each other.

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