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Written by: Rosie (Elegance/rsie)
Picture this. You’re in your final year of high school. You’re not necessarily the most popular kid, nor do you ever speak to those considered to be the popular kids or ever sympathise with them when you see their pretentious social media posts in which they pose at revealing angles, seeking for the next best meaningless compliment in the form of a comment to make them feel some sort of self-worth. But deep down you always envied them just slightly, you’d always check their posts just to see what you can make of your evening, like checking up on the most recent posts from their parties to see what you’ve been missing; you always felt like you were missing something.
You’re sat in your bedroom and it’s a Sunday night. With your back to your wardrobe, you’re sat on the floor with a phone in your hand aimlessly flickering between the different apps on your phone which you once cared about so much because, at the time, you felt like being appreciated by those around you was everything. You’re on a face-time call with your best friend, pointlessly chatting about who posted what on what website like there’s no tomorrow. Suddenly your thumb froze on one profile, “Broken into pieces”, Jessica tweeted. You thought it was just another head over heels teenager looking for some form of attention on the pedestal they created for themselves but your conscience tells you otherwise, the number of shares and favourites tell you otherwise. You’re lost in thought for a moment and then another moment and another; you’re lost in thought for a while before you decide to speak. You tell the news of grief to your friend who drops her phone and swiftly runs into her mother’s arms as she cries, “Not Charlie! He was so lovely and he was always there for me”. You’re sat in your bedroom and it’s a Sunday night. With your back to your wardrobe, you’re sat on the floor with a phone in your hand as always, but this time it’s different. You feel guilt.
You wake up in the morning feeling as if you have not slept, but you realise some have slept and will remain asleep for eternity, people who you saw every day. In your mind you can still picture them, their laugh and their smile and the notifications which you’d receive on your Facebook timeline: “Charlie played Arctic Monkeys on Spotify”. You search back through your old accounts to find messages, looking for something of him to hold onto, but there’s nothing but a blank screen as empty as your stomach. You’re supposed to be putting on your uniform, brushing your hair, tying your shoes. But you stare blankly at your wardrobe where you sat the previous night as you flickered between the apps on your phone when you heard then news but you can’t bring yourself to pick up your phone and flicker between those apps ever again because his social media presence still lingers.
You’re in the car on the way to school, your father and brother are having a debate about politics. The discussion which surrounds you is heated but you’re reminded of the science lessons you’d have, learning about decay of the human body after death and you’re reminded that his hands would be cold as they lie in a post-mortem on the brink of decay. You’re late to school but you remember that it doesn’t really matter anyway, you’ve worked your whole life for a series of exams that will determine how far you will succeed, a series of exams that define your potential through the eyes of society. As you enter the foyer, you’re directed to the school chapel by your science teacher who has a face filled with despair and sympathy. You can hear the piano music softly as you walk through to the chapel, you see the candlelight on the altar as you take a seat in a sea of heads which move up as they look towards the ceiling like they’re looking up to ask God for a reason, and down as they look to the floor to hide their heads and dry their eyes. You feel out of place sat amongst these weary faces, who have reason to feel this despair because they all held a close connection to the boy.
Later in the day, you’re at the end of your dinner hour. Your friends gather around each other and let each other know they’re appreciated, your head of year asks you to return to your regular class because “we can’t stay like this forever” and “we need to get a sense of normality back into the school” and so you return, because you respect those who hold a higher rank than you within the school because you’ve been told that your whole life. You sit in a class filled with nothing but the presence of pure silence and people who have also been told their whole lives that they have to work their whole life for a series of exams that will determine how far they will succeed, a series of exams that will define their potential through the eyes of society however they had all learnt in that day that none of it matters. The silence was deafening and continued for days. You sit still as you reflect upon the boy you’d pass in the corridor every day, the boy who carried a contagious laugh, the boy whose Spotify notifications you’d see on your social feed but never thought it meant a thing. There was a boy who lost his life. A boy who worked his whole life for a series of exams which would determine how far he would succeed, a series of exams that would define his potential through the eyes of society. However, there was a boy who didn’t live to sit the exams and therefore wasn’t define himself but this boy didn’t need the exams to define himself and he didn’t need to prove to the world how far he could succeed.
This year, I have learnt more in one term of silent classrooms than I ever have in 4 years packed with education. I have learnt that our lives should not be defined by letters on a page with our names typed in bold, capital letters across the top, or how we feel like we’ve been missing something for our whole lives. I know this now because there was a boy who didn’t manage to sit the series of exams that would determine how far he would succeed in his life defined himself without letters on a page. I learned this year that we work our entire lives for a series of exams- which we may not live long enough to sit- and that no exam can define our potential through the eyes of society as our potential through the eyes of society can be defined by each heart we touch every day just by smiling at someone in the corridor, or listening to a band someone else enjoys and knowing you share a similar interest without someone else, making someone laugh, telling someone you appreciate being with them, connecting with different people on a daily basis on the social media pedestal we create for ourselves. This year I realised that we have the opportunity to choose how we are defined in the eyes of society.
Picture this. You’re sat in your bedroom and it’s a Sunday night. With your back to your wardrobe, you’re sat on the floor with a phone in your hand you begin to flick between the different apps on your phone, but this time with an aim: to learn more about the boy you’d never allowed yourself to get to know because you believed him to be one of the popular kids who was pretentious and only sought attention from those around him. You scroll upon his Instagram page and search through the sea of comments which read wishes of resting in peace when you stumble upon your best friend’s profile. You’re thankful to have her in your life, someone who is alive to tell your stories to. You begin to scroll through her profile to find pictures of the two of you together. You scroll upon pages and pages of images of you together, each captioned with a different variation of the phrase “I love my best friend”. You scroll upon the likes on the post to find a name, Charlie. You realise that those popular kids in your school who you feel place themselves on a pedestal much higher than your own aren’t so high at all. From birth until our final day on this Earth, we are all of the same human potential no matter how far we believe we have managed to succeed.
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