Langsam Swan Song: Trust the Process

Megan Langsam, Editor-in-Chief

If I am known for something at Rock Ridge, it’s for being the kid who has suffered an unrealistic number of concussions. From falling down a hill in fourth grade to being hit in the head by three basketballs and one rubber football, I have suffered a total of 11 concussions over the last eight years. 

But the thing that isn’t widely known about having concussions is that after a while, you just accept the pain and struggles as your new normal. Weeks or months after, I can’t distinguish the new headaches and greater lack of focus from my previous symptoms. I can’t tell what is a still-healing concussion and what is normal pain. My high school experience has felt like getting another concussion. When the fresh pain wears off, you accept the new challenges and get back to work with a higher pain tolerance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this school. I love learning, and I have really enjoyed the majority of my classes and teachers over the last four years. From RRPA to The Blaze, I dedicated myself to the tech crew and newspaper communities, and have loved every minute of it. But there was no shortage of mountains to climb either. In October of sophomore year, I suffered a bad concussion that took well into the second quarter to heal. By the time I was finally back in a groove, the world fell apart. In virtual learning, I clung to my schoolwork and grades like an anchor. Eventually, the frustration over not being in the same room as my teachers, the red marks on my face from the blue light glasses, and the constant wishing I was in person just became a part of my routine. 

When I was able to return to school, it was like a weight off my shoulders. I was able to find comfort and ease in a new routine. And as senior year went on seemingly without a hitch, I suffered another concussion at the end of the third quarter. Now, I’m getting used to the new pain again, relaxing as I start to feel more myself. But as I prepare for my future, I can’t help but wonder how long will it last? 

I have clung to my routines and my need for structure for so long that the idea of living and branching out and embracing the unknown is downright petrifying. When all you know is to never stop working and get those grades, leaping into uncertainty feels like you’re climbing up a mountain but someone uncliped your harness and shoved you off the edge. You’re plummeting and it takes until you almost hit rock bottom to feel the safety net catch around you. With pain comes an increased reliance on the people and tools that can catch you if you so much as trip. So what happens with your ability to cope with that fear, pain, and anxiety when you move away from your safety net and find yourself falling? 

The only piece of advice that I could give is to get involved. Find the people, the tools, the coping mechanisms that will help you. That, regardless if you’re going 0 miles or 400 miles away after graduation, will be there to catch you when you trip head first or hit a brick wall (or metal box, or a piece of wood…). It doesn’t have to be something you do for all four years, but take people up on opportunities. Join clubs, get involved in the fine arts –I guess you can even play a sport if you want to.  Go figure out that you love writing and want to tell stories, or that you’re bossy and can take charge backstage. Go talk to that kid in your science class, or make a group chat with some acquaintances in an AP class. Use that paper agenda you bought when everyone else uses google calendar because you need to write out and check off things for them to happen. Say yes to taking a break and hanging out with friends when you need it. 

When you are at this cusp of adulthood — where reality is catching up and all of a sudden you have to make decisions about your future — at the very least find people who will dance in the wings with you or sing random Disney songs at 8 p.m. in room 1400. 

One of the most important things a teacher taught me this year was the idea of learning through failing. If you are not making mistakes, taking risks, trying different solutions, working on yourself, and asking for help, you are not learning. I wish I fully understood how true it is that the letters on your report card are meaningless. Grades don’t reflect effort. How hard you worked to earn that A compared to anyone else will never be known by an employer or a college. Try to teach yourself before it’s too late that the letters on your report card don’t reflect on the type of person, friend, and peer you are. 

I wish I had recognized so much earlier that it’s not the letter that matters, but the skills I’m gaining from the process. To be honest, if in sophomore or freshman year a senior told me “hey don’t stress about your grades it’s the journey that matters,” I probably would’ve laughed in their face or rolled my eyes or something. But now, as I’m being edged towards that cliff, I wish I hadn’t clung as tightly to this false idea of perfection and achievement or success lying within my A’s. I wish I had gotten my license, or gone on hikes with my friends during virtual learning instead of stressing about an Algebra 2 test or Theater History assignment. Because that cliff is coming. 

But because I have my friends, because I know that my hard work and tech theater classes have made me a problem solver, because I have grown as a person these past few years even though some days I feel like some strange sophomore-junior hybrid, I know in the end I’ll be okay. Unlike the characters on my favorite show, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” I’m no time traveler. I don’t know how many more concussions I’m going to suffer, or how long it will take me to adapt to college life, or if the college I’m choosing was the right choice and if I had gone back in time and applied to more schools early action it would make a difference and…. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m no Legend. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t accomplish something in the past four years. Because after every stumble, every concussion, all the stress over school work and the future, and trying to achieve this false ideal of perfection, I have matured. I have learned about myself, how I work best, what I enjoy. And despite all the pain these last few years, I have come out of it ready for whatever’s next. I’m ready to jump off this cliff and move on to my next adventure.