It was in fall of 2007, or perhaps spring of 2008. I was enjoying the pinnacle year of my education at Banks High School, where 'senioritis' seemed to be the only thing getting in my way from earning my ticket to a university.
I had spent 12 years in the Banks School District, each year one step closer to that modest piece of paper that represented something more profound: a bittersweet and almost melancholy end to the journey in which I had traveled to get it.
I remember I was on a bus with the rest of the National Honor Society on a notably rainy and gloomy day. We were on our way to a conference that would be locally televised, one in which chapters of NHS from many other schools would also attend.
Each chapter would voice a proposition to implement an action or some type of communal collaboration in the name of higher education. Around this time our school was facing growing criticism over our 'Braves' mascot, and there was an effort to have it amended.
For the arrogant 17 year-old self that I was, that notion seemed to be unnecessary, impractical and, for some reason, almost amusing in its redundancy.
The rain didn't let up. The thick drops pounding the bus window were almost comforting as we discussed how we were going to present our chapter's proposition. We wanted to do something about this 'mascot business,' but we couldn't just go up there and explain our situation as if we had no control over the situation (which we didn't).
I knew we needed to go bigger than this, something community-wide. We brainstormed and figured we would sell shirts and bracelets to get the word out, and have the profits go to the school. It was a win-win for us.
But what was the word that we wanted to spread? Resorting to petty name-calling through an attack campaign would send the wrong message, and ultimately it would be counter-productive. The word was right in front of us the whole time: Brave.
Keep Banks Brave. The decision was unanimous because we knew how effective it would be, and it was.
Whether it was the shirts, slogan or some other outside factor, the effort to change our mascot eventually dissipated over the months, and it was a small victory for us. As of late, however, the renewed debate took its final blow with the state ban on Native American mascots.
I was once told that the written word is perhaps the only thing that lasts forever. Everything else eventually fades through the shifting sands of time. While being a double-major here at the University of Oregon, Banks seems distant to me.
It will always be my home though, and no other town will make me feel quite the same. The Banks Brave will see its last glory in 2017, after which it will be amended to a different mascot. I think Banks Superintendant Jim Foster said it best: 'It means we're going to change...It's kind of a done deal.'
The idea of change is in itself ambiguous, and perhaps overlooked or overemphasized by many. Historically speaking, change is what shaped our civilization into what it is today. Things change, but that doesn't necessarily mean that tradition has to change also. This change doesn't really faze me as much as it might have five years ago. The reason is because Banks will forever be the Braves in one way or the other; I do not believe that the traditions of the people of my hometown are bounded and predetermined by something as superficial and finite as a warrior chief's head.
Change is the frame of reference for perspective. That is to say, a change brings value to you in that you see things in a different way. This may be good or bad, but it is almost always inevitable. Perhaps what matters most is what cannot be changed: preserving the things that give your life meaning, because like the shifting seasons, we all ultimately face that bittersweet change sooner or later.
Austin Kennedy is finishing his junior year at the University of Oregon, majoring in business and Spanish.