Heading in the left direction

Ellie Pazol, Executive Features Editor

I’ve never been the type of person who likes motivational quotes or cliche sayings. In fact, I really dislike them. My mom has this notepad that doubles as a calendar, and each day it has a new inspirational quote. My favorite part of that calendar is watching it shrink as the days pass so I no longer have to hear the inspirational quotes. Sorry, Mom. 

However, there is one cliche saying that resonates with me, and when trying to decide what to write my final Torch column about, I kept coming back to it: “When life doesn’t go right, go left.” Cheesy, I know. But hear me out on this one.

I thought my freshman year would be like something out of a movie. I packed my schedule with the most difficult classes and signed up for tons of clubs at the Activity Fair. And then, about three weeks into the school year, I got sick. And I don’t mean I missed three days of school. I mean I missed 18 days of school in my first semester of freshman year, unable to catch up on all the assignments that kept piling up. There I was, an eager, wide-eyed freshman ready to jump at every opportunity. How was I already falling so far behind?

Things clearly weren’t going right, so I had no choice but to veer left.

When I got back to school, I marched down to my counselor’s office and dropped down from the honors-level Algebra 2 course that my grades couldn’t recover from. And, what do you know? It led me to some of my closest friends and a teacher, Mr. Phillips, who helped me gain back my confidence in a subject I used to despise.

Sophomore year didn’t go quite as planned either. About two weeks into the season, I had to quit the swim team because my immune system still wouldn’t cooperate. So, I took my newfound time and turned left to different extracurriculars. I threw myself into Student Board and Torch, finding a home in two completely different worlds. When I took this left turn, I realized what I liked so much about swimming was the team aspect. But I found you can really build a team anywhere, whether that’s in a room full of kids who are probably way too interested in page design and word count or while packing boxes during the annual Food Drive. I always thought of sophomore year as an irrelevant one. But this left turn seemed to define much of what I did for the remainder of my high school career.

During junior year, the best left turn I took was a very simple one. After a whirlwind of scheduling issues, I ended up in Mr. Kallay’s 2-3A U.S. History class and Ms. Woods’ 2-3B Biology class. In history class, I met a teacher who changed the course of my high school career. He taught me that I was much more than a letter grade or test score. He helped me understand that not every day had to be a good day and that I didn’t always have to smile through difficult things. 2-3B with Ms. Woods gave me many things: the knowledge of the different parts of the flower, the smell of formaldehyde I wish I could forget and 90 minutes every other day to hang out with a boy I’d had a crush on since sophomore year. My junior-year left turn was quite a happy one. 

Then came senior year. A lot of things didn’t go right, so I became more and more accustomed to taking left turns. When college decisions didn’t turn out quite how I expected, left I went. And, if you are looking at a map, I took the biggest left turn possible: I committed to the University of Oregon. One of the “leftest” places you can get in the United States, literally. When a pandemic canceled the remainder of my senior year, I turned left along with the rest of the world. I hunkered down in my house with my family, watched too many hours of television, attempted to perfect new recipes and went on walks when the temperature rose above 40 degrees. 

High school has taught me a lot of things. I’ve worn a green and gold rugby shirt, spent way too much time trying to perfect the centerspread for Torch and gotten dressed up for every school dance. And yet, when trying to write my senior goodbye and thinking about my four years at Glenbrook North coming to a close, it wasn’t these moments I remembered. What came to mind the most were all the happy left turns I took when life just didn’t seem to go right.