According to Terry Abad, the head of the Lowell Alumni Association, 39,260 Lowell students have walked the halls of the long, low block building at 1101 Eucalyptus Drive. Every year, a tide of about 600 students circulate into their first “reg,” and another 600 flow out across the graduation stage. Out of the hoards of those out-spoken drama geeks, party boys, and everyday Lowell nerds, who can remember any one of these alumni?
Although it all ends in 26 days (at least for me, a second semester senior), I certainly don’t feel nostalgia towards my alma mater yet. The 1 a.m. bedtimes due to piles of work, frustrations with teachers and worries about grades — it’s still real. When I ask alumni about their now-resolved feelings toward Lowell, with their new challenges of college undergraduate issues at hand, they claim that they miss this institution (I interpret this as merely a case of rosy retrospection).
Everyday I can’t wait to get out of these walls, thinking about how unimportant my classes seem. But I think about the graduates’ perspective, making me wonder if I will eventually be sad to cross the catwalk for the last time, which raises a question. What is my Senior Will to Lowell — writing these sentimental columns, or diving across the volleyball court to add another dig to my stats? Or will nothing survive?
As I write this April column, the last column of my high school career, I realize I am making an attempt to be not overlooked, but remembered. Initially, I considered writing an “inside scoop” about Journalism and its perks: using S107 computers rather than the 20-minute wait for a library computer, writing articles that helped answer college admissions questions, and grinning at the quirks of late nights. I’d be seen as “that journalism guy” who wrote that column that got so many uber-newbies for the journ program.
I also actually considered, after reading 1988 alum Daniel Handler’s The Basic Eight, a novelization of his years at Lowell, writing a parody. I knew that I could unveil the daily dread encountered within these moldy walls dampened by the tears of students who long for A’s. With this, I’d be remembered for braving the ramparts of the institution and liberating the enslaved students with laughter.
To me, these ideas sounded unique and witty — ideas that could leave my mark on the Lowell community. But I realized my naïvety when I looked through the 276 columns on thelowell.org that expanded on the niches of journalism and irritation with the education system and teachers at Lowell. I even found a column about leaving behind a family’s legacy after the reporter’s older siblings had accomplished great things at Lowell. It shocked me that an idea I thought so original was a “been there, done that” one.
After finding those online columns, I felt that the “Lowell table” had already been full of diverse achievements, and I couldn’t bring anything new to its 156 years of existence. With the Lowell population including many Asian hard-working folk — so similar to me — am I just a serial number at this school? Perhaps as Hamlet believed, we are only a “quintessence of dust.” Does any group besides the class of 2012 know of the 2009 boys’ varsity basketball victory against Lincoln with Yuhki Sakai’s renowned three-point shots? Will my intensity on the volleyball court be swept away as easily as rewaxing the gym floor?
As I clean my room and computer from remainders of my high school life, preparing to pack for college, I find a treasure of memories on shelves and in hard drives. Yearbooks since freshman year, old videos of friends asking girls to Winterball and Mr. Evans’s test on polynomials from Accelerated Math 1 Honors are resurrected. I chuckle to myself; looking at my innocent freshman picture, I am amazed by the maturation from then to now — physically and intellectually.
Suddenly the nostalgia is present, allowing me to realize the value of these years. I also had an epiphany — I had forgotten how my friends in sophomore year had played volleyball in reg during CST’s and the substitute teacher Mr. Zawacki scolded us as he took the ball away. Instead of worrying about whether I’ll be remembered in 50 years, it’s more essential that in 50 years, I remember the laughter and sentimental moments, possibly triggered by the future alumni newsletters. Whether I recall getting tired — after a 3 a.m. night of studying — through Dr. Marten’s lecture on the valence shell electron pair repulsion (VSEPR) rules or laughing with friends about Mr. Worth’s hilarious lesson on the British Civil War, the person I became through these experiences is what matters.
If you ask my friends, I have grown from an uncontrollable, spontaneous and hilarious boy to now a more controlled — and hopefully still funny — man. Nevertheless, if there was ever a “Most Spastic” award, I would still probably win because probably no one is as lame with jokes or as goofy when dancing as me (except maybe Phil from Modern Family).
So that’s my legacy: a “too school for cool,” academic-working, non-stop volleyball-talking, self-loving, and Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy dad-joking kind of man. Some people wouldn’t want this exact lifestyle, but how could I have lived differently? After all, I’m not the captain and quarterback of the varsity football team, the only male dancers on Senior Letter, or president of Shield and Scroll. Those are other students’ legacies, not mine. So while not everyone may love “breaking it down” when Usher’s “Yeah” is played at a party or using the high school newspaper as an outlet to think about high school dilemmas, I do.
That’s my story, literally on the columns page — The Lowell with this mugshot of me admiring the 2009 yearbook. This May, I will be “waved” out of Lowell, with 600 new eager students in August filling the void. We have made our mark on the beach of the Lowell community Class of 2012; now the natural tides heralding new waves will continue Lowell’s centuries-old legacy.
Illustrations by Vivian Tong
A version of this article first appeared in the April. 27, 2012 print edition of The Lowell.