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Doing High School The WRONG Way - Mateo Arce, 21


Everyone was laughing as the crowd began to gather quickly. After almost choking, everyone high-fived him again and again as phones continued to roll. He struggled to see everyone because his eyes were watery and bloodshot red. The table turned a bright red as Flaming Hot Cheetos exploded out of his nose and mouth. He was trying to fit as many Cheetos as possible into his mouth. Once he stopped coughing, everybody went on their way to their next class. For some reason, I can remember that day with so much detail. He called it funny, but I called it stupid. By the end of the day, word and video had gotten around about his latest performance. Our teachers just sighed when they heard about his latest antics. After another YouTube challenge that my best friend tried, my teacher approached me to whisper something in my ear. She said, “don’t become like him”. I asked her what she meant, but she only responded with a simple, “Just trust me”. I wasn't sure what she intended to say, but it always stuck with me.

Everybody knew that we were best friends. I’d lived next to him since the first grade! This meant that we started on the same block, had very similar parents, and had gone to the same schools. We also had the same teachers and friends early on. We talked about the same things and we cared about the same things. We had it all planned out. We were supposed to go to the same middle school, high school, and an out of state college. Then work in the same area so we can hang out during lunch or after work. I was supposed to buy a Jeep and he was supposed to buy a Range Rover. He always talked about becoming a lawyer and I wanted become a software engineer. We were inseparable during our freshman year in high school. I remember passing notes to each other during class about silly things. Our idea of success was creating a list of who to invite to big parties in my parent’s back yard. We often talked about grilling carne asadas with cute girls and friends. We talked about it all the time. Yet, we were becoming so different somehow. Our focus and our goals were becoming different. His focus became about making everyone laugh, which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that became his only focus. I could see that school was the very last thing on his mind.

What bugged me was that I wished he realized that he could have been funny and smart. That he could make others laugh and stick to our plan, but without being smart everything just was silly and pointless in the end. What was it worth in the long run? He was always on YouTube, trying to figure out what to do next. It’s all he talked about for a while when we walked home. For a while, he wanted to become a “YouTuber”, but then he figured out how hard it was to make it. Our teachers changed when I started to take AP classes, and so did our friends. Soon after, he rarely did homework and his grades were a disaster. Like I said, his focus changed. Where he spent his time and whom he spent it with also changed. His friends were like him and my friends were like me. I remember asking him a few times if he was filling out college applications, but he just said no yet and walked away. He graduated alongside me, but barely.

I’m now a junior in college. I’m almost done and I was just accepted into a great internship this coming summer that will give me good experience learning programs about high tech software development. I know it’s going to be hard, but I feel ready. I’ve done my best to stick to the plan. As far as my best friend, he’s still my best friend and we still hang out. He has been working in horrible places for years now. I’ve heard crazy stories of everything he’s had to do at those jobs. He recently asked if I would help him get back into college because he decided not to go straight out of high school. Of course I said yes! I looked forward to getting him back on track to follow our original plans. Through the years we've had a few talks here and there about our different paths. It’s an awkward talk, but I’ve always been curious about what he thinks. He’s never had a real answer until recently. His answer was simple, but so interesting. He said, “I’m not sure, but I know that I did high school the wrong way”. I pushed a bit, and asked him what he meant, but said that he couldn't explain it any other way. Then he paused, he smirked and said, “I just cared about things that didn’t matter and forgot about the plan”. When he said that I realized how important it was to have a plan. The point is that all of my goals, questions, and a lot of my time went into one thing, the plan. I wanted to know more about anything that had to do with software and computers. I changed my plan along the way and even doubted it sometimes, yet it was there all along. The picture was there! And I liked the picture I had for my future. It motivated me! I’m glad that my best friend is trying to get back to his plan because he was always a part of the master plan. In the meantime, we’re supposed to figure out how to get him back in school at our next carne asada.

~ Mateo Arce


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