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Counting down the days

Maverick Notes


TORVALDSThere are 82 days left until I leave for college, 12 days until graduation and exactly a week until my last day of school.

I’ve always been a little fanatical about countdowns. My mom worries that I spend too much time looking forward to things, that I build them up in my head until the day I’m waiting for can’t possibly match my expectations.

I don’t think I do, though. I just like having things to look forward to, and knowing exactly where I stand on a timeline of days and weeks that sometimes feel as if they are moving too quickly — and sometimes, as if they’re not moving at all. I’m anxious even without my watch on, because I like to know how many hours I have left in my day.

Part of my preoccupation with countdowns and clocks means I don’t spend much time looking back. Any reflection I do is just for the purpose of improving things in the future; I don’t see any point in reflecting on one-time events, like presentations I’ll never do again or papers I won’t get a chance to rewrite.

I don’t spend much time dwelling on the past just for the sake of it. I guess I waste that time thinking about what I’ll be doing next year or next weekend instead.

Sometimes, though, always looking forward means I don’t spend enough time in the present or feeling grateful for the past. I think a lot about how the future will be better than the present, and not very much about how nice my life is right now, or how nice it has been. So I made a little list of some of the things I’ve learned (or haven’t learned) in high school.

n I don’t know how to file my taxes. But I’m pretty sure nobody does. I mean, my family has an accountant. And I’m pretty sure at least one of my peers will go into that field, and I can ask him or her about it.

Instead, I can create a visual metaphor for America’s tax system from the points of view of both major political parties. I used a cute picture of Disney’s “Robin Hood” and wrote 300 words on the rationale behind this image last trimester for my economics class final. This is a useful skill in its own right, I think.

n I don’t know any geography. To be fair, I’ve always been pretty bad at Earth sciences and geopolitics, and middle-school geography bees were always a shameful practice. I distinctly remember shrugging sadly before taking my seat when my seventh-grade teacher asked me about the Danube. I still don’t know anything about the Danube, including how to pronounce it. But I can make a concept map linking any seemingly arbitrary topics together. My skills rival any theory about six degrees of separation. That’s probably more important, because I can easily link abstract concepts. I don’t think non-humans can do that, or even humans who didn’t go to Riverdale.

n I don’t really have a strong basis in the hard sciences. I know lots of people who have pursued further physics classes at nearby colleges. I’ve personally taken lots of outside math. But I can’t really tell you what stoichiometry is. Still, I am able to write incredibly long and thoughtful papers about everything from chemical compounds to sex workers, and I have.

n A lot of people leave high school complaining that they’re underprepared for college and for real life. I have to say I agree. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s how to jump right into something and try it anyway, maybe try not to drown, and learn by doing.

Eighty-two days left. I might not be prepared, but I’m certainly ready.

Riverdale High School senior Patricia Torvalds is a regular columnist for The Review. Contact her at education@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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