Back in Stuy, there was a saying that often wormed its way into speeches or closing opinion pieces in the school newspaper, like that joke about laxative* that stopped being so funny after you’ve heard seven different comics say it in a row. (I am surprised neither was anyone’s yearbook quote.)
Welcome to Stuyvesant High School. Choose two of the three: grades, friends, or sleep.
The Friday before my Astronomy class final, I powered through a monster seven-hour study session with three classmates in preparation for the final. In doing so, not only did I fry my brain, but I finalized my answer to that joke in the process, an answer which I was leaning towards my junior year and had solidified by my final year of high school.
I choose friends. It doesn’t matter what else I have. Without friends, being well-rested just makes me restless and bored. Without friends, the time spent studying seems even lonelier, and the grades feel hollow and pointless. Yet with friends, I can feel energetic and motivated even when I’m running on empty. A dollar spent with friends on five fried dumplings can feel more rewarding than any meal I’ve eaten alone. Friends can make me feel like I have a place in the world, a niche that no job earned by good grades could ever fill. Friends is the only choice that will comfort me when I don’t have the others.
So thank you, all of you, for showing me this unique facet of the world: one where school isn’t everything, where a simple piece of molded plastic can provide infinite enjoyment, where money is no longer considered squandered but merely spent for a good cause. As much as my future clamors for more attention, thank you for grounding me in the present. Thank you for showing me that even though the most enjoyable things are often ephemeral and a waste in the long run, a life not lived is the worst waste of all.
*There are some things that you need to buy together. “Should I get the laxative…or the toilet paper? . . . Give me the laxative. Paper bag, please. And yes, I want the receipt!”
**I was tempted to say, “Friends, I choose you!” but I choked and died a little inside. I still think it’s a tiny bit brilliant, so it’s been relegated to this addendum.