Wingspan seniors reflect on past four years

Austin Woodard

Buddy the Elf provides inspiration for surviving senior year

_MG_2021“You sit on a throne of lies!” Buddy the Elf’s inspiring message has rung in my head many times throughout senior year. Every senior before me had told me that senior year was the best year, but I saw very little truth in this.

In place of the wonderful experience of senior skip days and enjoying all the new privileges at my fingertips, I suffered through grueling hours of studying and college applications that just stopped short of asking for my soul. I was lied to.

I won’t tell the same lie to you. Senior year is a grueling year, one filled with stress eating, sleep deprived nights and crippling senioritis. This will not be the best year for anyone who is putting forth full effort.

However, this is nothing compared to what awaits. Senior year is the last flight of stairs until the balcony. This year has represented the challenge to prepare me for the new journey ahead of me.

I don’t want to convey that all of my time at West has been a struggle. There have been truly wonderful moments as well. It is well known that nothing that comes easy is worth having, and this is true for high school as well.

Throughout my time at West I have heard a student body come together to roar. I have seen the halls lined with red, white and blue. I have felt the electricity of a school jumping to its feet at a game. I have been a Falcon, and this has been a great experience. Unfortunately, all things must come to an end, and my time at West is no exception to this, so I must make the transition from a Falcon to a Terrier.

I am ready to go BU and embrace a new city with new people, ideas and opportunities. I intend to make the most of this new world I have the opportunity to enter and use this to make myself the best I can be.

This brings me to my one regret I have about my time at West. Despite my very comedic personality and talkativeness I did little to get involved and often tried to avoid making close ties to my classmates until I became an upperclassmen.

Knowing this about myself and wishing I could change it, I challenge you to make the most of every moment you have. Take the tests and drama in stride so you may appreciate the friendships and experiences that are available.

At the risk of invoking a cliche, I challenge you to be the best you can be not for your parents, your friends or your school but for yourself, so that when you leave West to go onto to your next journey you will have no regrets, only good memories.

I challenge you to be better than me, Mr. Jones and anyone else here. I challenge you to be able to say that you made the most of every moment and be honestly able to say you were the best.

In short, I challenge you to be the best to ever walk these halls, and I know that if you are reading this, it is in you.

Alex Ginn

High school provides path to self discovery

alexFor my column I was going to rant. It was going to be a huge stress reliever in which I stuck my metaphorical middle finger in the air and shouted profanity to four years of hell.

I still stand by everything I said in my almost column, but then I read some of the other columns on how high school did suck, but it wasn’t completely bad. In these stories of survival, I saw all this hope and inspiration and knew that I couldn’t make my entire column a negative rant.

Maybe a week earlier when I was having another breakdown this would have been my giant “FU” to West. But then I realized my high school experience hasn’t been flowers and sunshine, but it has had a few beautiful summer days.

It is in this school that I became the person I am today. This person is a mess, but it is still a mess I am proud to be. For years, I was just trying to fit in. I would try to pretend that I was something I wasn’t. All those years I silenced my voice and never stated my opinion or added my thoughts. This continued through middle school and into high school. But freshman year this started breaking. Thanks to theater that I found my voice, literally.

I used to be shy, but theater, for the most part, started the crack that would ultimately lead to me breaking my bonds of conformity. As the years progressed, I found myself becoming more outspoken. Perhaps it was just me finally becoming comfortable with my peers, but my hunch is that it was me finally becoming OK with myself.

Junior year was my major turning point. I had finally found a group where I was able to be myself. They were a group of amazing seniors that were weird, and brilliant, and nice. They were exactly what I needed. Between the late nights of Cards Against Humanity and watching all of the Lord of the Rings, I found my place.

Then June came and junior year was over for me, but high school itself was over for them. August rolled around and they were all off to college. I realized that I was right back where I started. These people were my foundation, and when they left, my foundation was nearly destroyed.

I had to learn to live without support. I was thrown into the deep end without floaties and I was terrified. At first my head kept going under the waves, but then I figured out how to tread water and then, at some point, how to float.

Somehow, in the mess of senior year, I found new friends, ones I could have a spontaneous dance party with in the senior lot. I also had a hippie fam where “real talks” were frequent. I learned to be my own strength. Through my trials and tribulations of four years of high school, I haven’t become a completely different person. I simply discovered the one who has been there the whole time. For that, I am eternally grateful to West.

Amy Turlington

Bucket list helps senior persevere through tough times

amySometime around the second week of senior year, I decided to make a “West High Bucket List.” The purpose of this list was to make sure that I finished everything I would miss the opportunity to do once I graduated.

For example, before I left West, I wanted to ride the red newspaper wagon at top speed down Y-hall, climb up in the ceiling behind the theater stage, catch one of the frogs that lives in the creek next to the school and open the jar of queso in the Z-2 backroom. I also wanted to run a personal record in track and make it to state with my 4 x 800 team.

So I added these things to a random sheet of paper in my room and wrote West High Bucket List at the top. As the year progressed, I kept adding more things to the list and checking off the ones I completed. Surprisingly, this simple piece of paper has helped me get the most out of my final year at West.

One of the best things about senior year is being able to relax and be yourself without worrying about what other people think. My bucket list has helped me enjoy senior year more and has helped me make sure that I got done all the random things I have wanted to do since freshman year.

Senior year is a great opportunity to discover who you are and what interests you want to pursue, and oddly enough, my bucket list helped me organize what I wanted to do with my senior year. Attending West is a unique opportunity, and I want to make the most of it in every way.

Out of everything on my bucket list, Number 11 ended up being the most important. During the terrible week before Christmas break when I wanted to put all my school supplies in the shredder, I wrote on Number 11 two words: “Keep Going.” Although I can’t exactly check this number off until I graduate, this seemingly obvious saying has helped me persevere when I wanted to just give up.

True, senior year has been difficult. The common misconception that junior year is the hardest was completely wrong, so underclassmen, don’t be fooled.

Senior year has been bombarded with college applications, scholarship essays, research papers, and schoolwork. To top it all off, we’ve all had to fight a terrible case of senioritis, which showed up right around the most critical point in the year.

In the midst of all this stressful stuff, Number 11 on the bucket list helped me remember to keep pressing on, no matter how behind I felt or how impossible a task might have seemed. Looking back, I think seniors would agree that refusing to give up after all this time was a good choice. So underclassmen, remember when you get to senior year to “keep going.” It’ll be worth it. You’ll surprise yourself with your accomplishments and enjoy seeing how your life decisions play out.

 

Natalya Lunsford

4 years of high school went by fast, but friendships remain

IMG_0515I remember the first day I walked into newspaper class my freshman year. It was loud. People were switching seats left and right, and this really intimidating lady yelled at me first thing to take a seat.

I searched the room for a familiar face and wound up in the second row closest to the door behind sweet Alex Ginn. That’s where it all began.

Since that day I have moved up from the bottom of the food chain. From “Call Me Maybe” to throwback Backstreet Boyz, journalism has definitely become my home over the past four years. I’ve learned a lot of things in the backroom in my time here, like how to make the best Top 10 boards and how to cram three weeks of AP Language into two days with minimal tears.

Somewhere along the way I became best friends with all of you. I guess a big part of that was the massive group message that started between nine of the funniest people alive. We have junior year Quill and Scroll luncheon to thank for that. Slowly we are all growing up, graduating and parting ways. Next year half of us will be continuing the ongoing legacy here and half of us will be hours away at college (but only a text away). Let’s be real, I’d not only be extremely bored without Hippie Fam, but I’d be lost.

Going into high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Honestly, 2015 seemed so far away. I figured I would know what I was going to college for and what job I wanted when I became a senior, but I didn’t. Seniors really don’t have it all together like you think they do. I’m almost certain I put a different major on every college application I filled out in the fall, but somehow like many before me I have also figured it out.

When you start your senior year, people tell you it’ll go by fast, but you don’t believe them until it’s the middle of May and you realize it’s all over in a matter of weeks. You work hard for three years just to make it to the top and to rule the school, but honestly, it’s not as great as you imagined. Sure you can cut freshmen in the lunch line, steal rolly chairs in the backroom, leave class a little early, but the high rubs off after the first couple of weeks.

You’ll swear on your life that you won’t procrastinate and you won’t catch senioritis. It’s likely your year will start like that. You get to the middle of the school year, and your only thoughts are spring break, prom and graduation. Now two of those things have passed, and it’s become bittersweet. The countdown of days until graduation keeps getting lower. The once three digit number has become a two digit number, only to be replaced soon by a single digit. As much as I swore I wasn’t going to miss this place, I know I will and all the people here. Thanks for an awesome four years, Falcon family!

Olivia Slagle

How the Class of 2012 taught me I don’t ‘Have It All Together’

oliviaThe Class of 2012 was made up of gods and goddesses. Impressive deities that sat in rolling chairs, danced on cars and, for some strange reason, talked to me.

An uncomfortable 14-year-old wearing bandanas and bracelets as part of an awkwardly misguided quest to be cool, I was in awe of their apparent grace, intelligence and the fact that they “Had It All Together.” One of my newspaper EIC’s was the homecoming queen, and the other was a Morehead Scholar. The theater seniors didn’t just act; they became their characters. It was just a coincidence that the musical my freshman year was Grease, but to me it seemed like fate. To me, the Class of 2012 WAS the cast of Grease. They were all best friends who sang and danced and loved each other through all the drama, although I’m sure their drama was no where near Grease level. They were like this giant beautiful family of real adults that truly had it all together.

When my freshman year was over, Catherine Swift, a senior who had become a role model for me, wrote in my yearbook that she believed I could be anything I wanted: student body president, editor-in-chief or theater goddess. Her vote of confidence made me sure that by the time I was a senior, I too would “Have It All Together.”

But I don’t. Instead of taking in an awkward 14-year-old caterpillar and sending out a beautiful 18-year-old butterfly, West took in an awkward 14-year-old caterpillar and is about to send out a 17-year-old girl still half in the cocoon. I don’t “Have It All Together,” but that’s OK.

At the beginning of my senior year, my goal was to impart the same wisdom to the freshmen that “my seniors” gave to me. I wanted to seem like an older and mysterious role model who knew what she was doing, created amazing newspapers, owned the stage in the musical and definitely “Had It All Together.” Now, as my senior year draws to a close, I realize if I haven’t been those things, it doesn’t matter.

I sit in rolling chairs, perform on stage and spend my hours editing the Wingspan, but I don’t exude the same sense of calmness and poise that I always felt from those 2012 seniors. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do when I do finally unfurl the wings that were carefully crafted, feather by feather, inside these halls, but it’s OK.

The most important thing the Class of 2012 did wasn’t win prestigious awards or write an impressive piece of literature. The thing they did that impacted me the most was talk to me.

I was in awe of the fact that they “Had It All Together,” but I was more in awe of the fact that they noticed me.

And that is what I hope I have done. I don’t need a freshman to be impressed by a song I sing or an article I write. I just want someone to feel like they can do anything because someone from the Class of 2015 told them they could.

Polly Philips

Buds, roses and thorns discovered during senior year

IMG_6515The only way I could explain my senior year is the “highest of highs and the lowest of lows.” Mountains and valleys. Beginnings and ends. Buds, roses and thorns.

At the end of each day at camp, we would go over our buds, roses and thorns. Just to make it clear, buds were things we believed were promising, held hope, could blossom into a flower. A rose was something enjoyable, something positive, something full of love. And a thorn was something negative you wish you could change or make better tomorrow.

This taught me to reflect on my day every day — just take a few moments to think about the positives and the negatives. Throughout senior year there have been plenty of buds. Receiving my acceptance letter to Appalachian State University was a bud. It represented what the future holds, that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

I saw each freshman on the newspaper staff as a bud. It made me excited to see them excited. It made me excited to see people that reminded me of me as a freshman. I only hope I was half as inspirational to them as my seniors were to me. I think of myself as a mess, so its nice to have someone think I have it all together.

N.C. Theater Conference was a rose. This group of lovely people became my family for a couple of months and made me step out of my box and try something I had never done before. It was exciting and exhilarating, and it involved something I love to do — push myself. Becoming EIC of the Wingspan was a rose even though it was full of endless days searching for fonts and forever looking for red pens to edit drafts.

Z-2 was a nice little cove at West to hangout in during homeroom, lunch or any free time throughout my day.

Another rose was the sweet souls I met while at West. Olivia Slagle, my co-editor-in-chief inspired me every day. Mrs. Gorsuch taught me more in her AP Lit class than I have learned in all four years at West.

Our discussions about the American dream and genuine communication made me think in perspectives I never would have before. Kole Thomas, Jackson Whiting and Josh Conner — you are fam. I believe MaryKent, Katie Farina and all of my Wingspan staff will live laughter-filled lives, and I encourage them to enjoy their bright future.

So when I think of high school, I think of all my buds, roses and thorns. The late nights spent with a couple of friends in a kitchen talking for hours and dancing around a campfire. Therefore, I think Charles Dickens put it right when saying: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdoms, it was the age of foolisness.” That was my high school experience.

Joel Fennimore

Right label isn’t as important as liking the person you are

DSC_2256Man, high school was weird. But it sure was great. A great experience for growing up, mostly. After prepping myself throughout middle school with shows like “Ned’s Declassified” and “Drake and Josh” to get a taste of high school, I can now see how exaggerated those shows really were.

But when you’re a freshman, it all feels so relatable. You stress about the small things. You try to fit in. But most of all, well, for me anyway, I worried about labels.

In every cliche high school movie and show ever made, there’s always the different groups (jocks, nerds, goths, etc.).

Though cliques aren’t really a problem at West, I still felt the need to fit into one of these categories. After trial and error, I came to this conclusion: I was too weird to hang out with the cool kids and too normal to hang out with the weird kids. So now what? Maybe I’m just destined to never fit in. Maybe it’s an inherent flaw? Maybe it’s my personality type. So that’s when I did some research and discovered the Myer’s-Briggs Personality Test.

After taking the test multiple times to see if it was accurate, I kept landing with the same personality type. INFP. Introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving. This personality type is often associated with being overly sensitive and weak, and while I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, it did make sense at the time. I developed a sort of label for myself with this, so whenever I would procrastinate on something or get upset over something dumb, I would always fall back on the idea of “Ah, well, it’s just my personality type.”

I kept this sort of tunnel vision for quite a while, always making excuses and hating myself for believing I was too different. It made the whole idea of fitting in much harder.

When my sophomore year was finished, my two best friends both left West to go to other schools. They didn’t move away; they just didn’t enjoy it here. While we still talked on Facebook, life, at the time, just wasn’t the same. I started to resent my friends. I became stubborn. I refused to make new friends. I wasn’t seeing the big picture.

Throughout junior year, I tried to make friends at other schools through social media. While some of the times were great, I was trying to become someone I wasn’t. I was a huge jerk to some people, constantly trying to look cool and have a good follower count on Twitter. In the end, I only ended up hating myself even more.

This school year I did some “soul-seeking,” per se. I realized how much I’d grown to dislike myself, and I wanted to change. And honestly, it was as simple as forgetting labels, personality types and trying to look cool. It was as simple as being myself. So yeah, personality types are still cool and all, but don’t let them define you as a person. It’s the same as going to a fortune teller and believing everything you hear.

Sarah Wentzel

Life can reveal truths about the person you were all the time

SarahEverything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Viktor E. Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning)

High school is a time of change. During my four years here, I have laughed loud, I have cried, I have endured adversity with the loss of my parents, and I have experienced some of the best moments of my life. All of those experiences have had an impact on me, no matter how big or small, which brings me to a point: you are the only one in control of how things affect you, and, ultimately, the people around you.

After the loss of my mother, I chose to take my situation and turn it into one that made me a bitter being who wanted nothing more than to stay at home with the company of a few good books and the darkness my curtains provided. Two years of that and I decided it was time to turn things around.

I had let my grades fall, and I could see the disappointment in my father’s face and hear it in every word he spoke to me. “Sarah, you can’t just be like a leaf floating down a stream. You have to take initiative,” he would tell me.

The summer before senior year I spent a couple of weeks reading the five AP summer reading books while exploring Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado with my father and my brother. Although I enjoyed all the books, one stood out to me: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It was an autobiography of Frankl’s struggles through surviving a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He lost his whole family in the process. Despite this, he pressed on and stayed positive about his situation. He described how those who experience hardship in life can more easily find meaning in life. I found this to be very applicable.

Last September, my father died unexpectedly. Of course, my mind was going a million miles a minute. My rock, my shield, the one who had kept me going after my mother died, had reached the end of the line and I was now on my own. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be feeling. I even almost forgot how to breathe. I was in disbelief.

But then I remembered all the advice my dad had given me and decided even though I was facing something extreme, I would not allow it to drag me down to the dark place I had been before. I took all my dignity and all my pride and everything I had in me, and I got back on my feet. I am now stronger than ever. And as if life were congratulating me for overcoming what had been thrown at me, I was accepted to my dream college, Emory University. While my situation is in no way easy, I believe that adversity hasn’t built up my strengths, but rather revealed them. I now know I have a lot to live for, and though I wish my parents were here to see me walk across the stage, I know they are looking down on me.

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