Friday, June 20, 2008

And finally, about a month later-the senior column

For your reading convenience, here is the senior column I last blogged about. You can click on the link below for my vanity's sake (the number of hits are tracked). Below the column are some more random thoughts about it, so scroll down even if you've read it already.

On failure and expectaions

By David Alpert

I never broke five minutes in the mile. I wasn’t elected Head Prefect. As a matter of fact, I haven’t fulfilled a single campaign promise to date. I didn’t get into Georgetown- early, regular, off the waitlist. I was quite possibly the only senior ever to be a three year veteran of the JV Cross Country team.

I didn’t clear 10 feet in the pole vault. I don’t even have a single varsity letter to show for my seven seasons of running. And I never found my “That 70’s Show”-esque group of friends where everybody’s comfortable with each other and the laugh track checks in every couple of minutes. And my grades- well they were just plain mediocre.

I failed at Harvard-Westlake. Or at least I didn’t meet my expectations, which if you’re keeping score at home just so happens to be the same as failing. Maybe my expectations were too high.

But no, I don’t buy that. That thinking suggests a self-pitying lack of ability and capability. The expectations were just right. And in some respects, so was the failure.

Emma Kaplan and I fought for months over the journey speech for ring ceremony. (She won and did a great job with it). But now that I have my soapbox, allow me to step up on it and preach.The failure was right. And why was the failure right? Because naturally, it taught me something success never could have. Something much more important than the easy lessons success teaches you, that hard work and determination pay off.

I want so badly to have something profound to say here; some life changing words that will immortalize my name at 3700 Coldwater Canyon long after I’m gone. But the truth is I don’t. Not here. Not now. But someday I will. And I think that’s what I learned at Harvard-Westlake. I learned that despite not measuring up, despite failing time after time, I still expected great things of myself.

(Now here’s for my shameless plug. If you like my writing, or if you like me, or hell if you’d just like to get a taste for the world through my eyes, check out my blog. It can be found at That’s ‘never ever say no dot blogspot dot com.’ The name’s explained in my first post. I leave for my gap year at the end of September, but I’ve already started writing, and I plan to keep writing all summer long. So come check it out. And now back to the happily ever after already in progress…)

I think that’s what is going to make me great. Not today. Not yesterday, because in my opinion I wasn’t great here. But someday I will be great because no matter how many times I fail, I still expect to be great. And I think I owe that to Harvard-Westlake.

So thank you, Harvard-Westlake. And to the rest of you, all the current, former and future students, faculty and staff that make up Harvard-Westlake, keep the school’s motto in mind Possunt Quia Posse Videntur, or ‘They Can Because They Think They Can.’ Keep thinking you can and you will. Be great today.

Now here's some musings on the column. First, a comment about two failures. When I first showed the column to my dad he commented that he thought I would offend some of my friends with the "That 70s Show" line. Honestly, that thought hadn't crossed my mind, because I thought that anyone who knows me would agree. I made a ton of great friends, and met lots of amazing people at HW, but I never found that tight knit group that I expected to find or make. Still two of my best friends reported that their mothers expressed either shock or sadness at that line.

Second, the Georgetown line. This is the one I was most nervous about because I thought this is where I bared the most about myself. I had sat silently in Weiler Hall, the Chronicle's building and had listened to other people on the staff talk disparagingly about Georgetown, in terms of its ranking and other meaningless numbers. I had kept the fact that I applied early to Gtown a secret for a long time before the decisions came out before deciding to tell my friends. But neither of those factors were what gave me pause.

I was more concerned about the fact that in the print version of the May issue of the Chronicle, a reader could read my column and then flip a few pages earlier in the Senior Supplement to the matriculation list, check where I picked to go to college (William and Mary) and misperceive my feelings. The truth is that I'm really, really excited for WM. (As a matter of fact, just about an hour ago, I bought my first piece of WM gear online). I just felt, and still feel, that I might be happier at Georgetown, or better served by going there. But that in no way, shape or form diminishes my excitement for Williamsburg.

Oh and I was also given pause by the fact that while I wasn't accepted from Georgetown's Waiting List, I wasn't denied either. I was moved to the university's Extended Waiting List, which I still had/have a chance to get accepted from. But chances of that happening are looking slimmer by the day, as they free that wait list, and tell you to stick with whatever school you chose, on June 30. And I honestly am very okay with that. I'm sad that I probably won't be going to Georgetown. But then I think about Wren Hall, (the oldest building on WM's campus dating back to the 1700s where incoming freshmen take the honor pledge), the Sunken Gardens, (which is actually more a long stretch of grass than a garden with brick walkways) and the little stone at the entrance to William and Mary's campus that has the school's name and founding date of 1693 inscribed on it, and I get really happy. So it all works.

Finally, a last word about the ending I chose. When I read it again, it still sort of seems like a cop-out. I originally wrote it as filler and planned on replacing it, but then I showed it to someone who really liked it and I began to consider it as a legitimate possibility. Then I showed it to someone else who agreed with my fear that it was too sappy. But the more I thought about it, I realized that there was too much truth in the ending to replace it. If I were to replace it with anything, in my mind it would have to be something deep and profound. I had mulled it over for a long time and still had come up with zilch, so instead of faking something, I just wrote the truth. I'm okay with that. And I've gotten lots of nice comments from friends, family and even a complete stranger so I feel good about ending my Chronicle career on that note.

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