Thank You, Derry


Originally published October 4, 2019

I have been avoiding writing this piece since I embarked on the last odyssey of my high school career this year. Something about it didn’t feel right. I suppose I didn’t feel like a senior yet. But then the first semester ended, and now the third quarter has as well, leaving me in the last few weeks of high school – ever – and I still don’t feel like a senior.

I’ve been mulling over why, trying to put the feeling into words to figure out what went wrong that I can’t seem to quite enjoy this last stretch, and I believe I’ve finally figured it out: I have so many things I want to do, and not enough time to do it.

When I entered high school in 2015, I had a checklist of the things I wanted to do. I had great plans to finish writing a novel, become almost fluent in German, and basically transform myself into a better different person.

Yet the only thing I achieved was the last one.

​I have not completed my novel (though I am about 60,000 words into the rough draft) and I’m barely declared intermediate when it comes to my German capabilities, but I have changed for the better over the years. And honestly, that’s the most important thing.

Now that I am close to the end of my initial schooling, I look back on all I have not accomplished, and I feel guilty. But that’s my problem. I set all these goals to accomplish by the time I graduate, and since I am one to always get projects done on time, it bothers me. So I’ve started trying to train my brain to think less about what I didn’t do, and more of what I have done in the past four years, and who helped me get here.

When it comes to my novel, what a lot of people don’t tell you is that it is mostly solitary work propelled by self-motivation, which is something I didn’t have much of until my junior year. My personal drive used to only be geared towards my academics, but I now direct it down several different avenues. And there are several people responsible for that. My former English teachers really helped me shape my craft and find my voice. Mrs. Feldbusch gave me the initial confidence I needed to put my words on paper, while Mr. Williams’ Fun-Write-Fridays helped me realize I write better in short bursts. Mrs. Harr always was willing to read my (pretty rough) rough draft of my first few chapters while I discovered the plot and the direction I was going. And Mr. Curcio always gave no-nonsense reviews of what I wrote that was kind of intimidating but filled with tips that I wouldn’t have considered incorporating otherwise. Honestly, without them, I would have never grown to become the writer I am today or the person. Writing gave me confidence, and let me use my words to inspire others.

The second item on the list was about German. As many of you know, Derry’s German program was cut in my sophomore year, and at the time,  I was planning on majoring in German. I knew that three years without the experience of the language would leave me at quite a great disadvantage compared to others in my field, and so I worked closely with Dr. Perry and Mr. Ferencak to try and get the few remaining German kids an opportunity to continue their language learning experience. Now, I am the only student at Derry still taking German as a foreign language, but without these people as well as  Mr. Long (who also encouraged me to keep going) and Ms. Smeltzer (who let me do my work in the library each day and kept my morale up), I wouldn’t have the opportunities I do now and I certainly would not be dual majoring in English and German as I am today.

The last item on my checklist that I wrote for myself in 2015 was to change for the better. That one was the easiest one in my mind then, but it has actually been the hardest.

Change comes at a cost, and that cost for me was a lot of extra time, heartache, and woe to become the person I am today. I have made and lost friends changed career paths, picked up new interests and gained a whole lot more confidence than I started out with. Looking back on my past four years, there are too many people to thank. These are just a few mentors who impacted me. I could have written piles of articles on how the people here at Derry shaped me, but I am limited to only one.

When it comes down to it, Derry has its flaws. It has things that need reform, problems that need mending. But I also know that there are a lot of good people here, students and faculty alike. Here, I have seen people tear down others, and another group builds that individual back up. There is a sort of balance here that I’ve really come to appreciate in the last year. There is also a sort of respect from the senior class, respect that comes from kids that know that all of this is coming to an end sooner than we think, and we’re trying to make the most of it. People are extremely nice and open, and everyone is looking to the future. It’s really refreshing. I think the seniors are a little nostalgic, and I know for a fact I am.

​And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, I have so much to be thankful for as a result of Derry. If I had been elsewhere, I wouldn’t be the same. I was shaped by my environment here, and no matter how far I go – whether it is Georgia, Japan, or Germany – I can always call this place home.