Friday, December 6, 2013

Senior Quotes

Turned in my senior quote recently.

For those whose high schools don't do this--the senior quote is a space next to your picture in the yearbook where you can write anything you want, bar references to sex/drugs/violence. It is the last thing most people will see of you--or rather, the most lasting thing.

Lieutenant Sarcasm and I discussed much about what differentiates a good senior quote from a good quote in general. The former is more restrictive: we decided that advice quotes, dramatic deep quotes, quotes about narrow subjects, and critical quotes don't work well as senior quotes. For these reasons, I did not quote Marcus Aurelius (alas).


Good senior quotes I've seen:

  • "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." --Winston Churchill
  • "I send this message so that our past will always be remembered. For in those memories, we live on." --Optimus Prime
  • "Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man." --John Henry Newman
  • "Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon." --Paul Brandt
  • Beam me up, Scotty, my work here is done.


Common senior quotes, and I use the word "common" knowing all its connotations:
  • "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." --Dr. Seuss
  • "Be the change you want to see in the world." --Gandhi
  • "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Wall of initials in which one thanks all one's friends/"sisters"/homies
  • "Class of 2k14, we out!"
  • Pithy phrases prefaced by hashtags

As I said, common. The first three quotes are nice, as far as they go, but terribly cliche. The last three are ways to induce my loss of respect, because I'm a petty person who judges people based on how they present themselves verbally.

The wall of initials bothers me perhaps the most because it was something I've considered doing in the past. What better way to show your enduring friendship than with a yearbook shoutout? But now I realize that referring to lots of people in one's senior quote marks dependency. Do you really need all these people to be happy?

Are they so vital to your life--will they be so vital to your life in five, ten, twenty years, that it will be worth it giving them air time in the tiny rectangle that is all yours? I have a stark antipathy toward defining yourself in terms of other people so publicly. I am selfish. That rectangle is the space in which I set forth something representative of my philosophy.

The point of graduating high school is that we're going to be in unfamiliar surroundings, meeting new companions, becoming new people. Growing. Growing apart from, growing out of the familiar. I don't want to go into college encumbered by people I used to know.

(If you're my friend now, know that I don't hate you. I just think that, in the course of things, we probably won't be as close in the future. I still appreciate your friendship in the present.)

I'm probably being unfair. But in a moment when we're supposed to be stepping into a new world, making such a big deal of the past seems immature.

The references to the graduating class are irksome for much the same reason. As I've written before, I can't identify with the mindset that glorifies being seniors. One's class is a grandfalloon: we are brought together by no more than geography and timing, and I value connections of choice more than those of chance. (Destiny/fate is to me a most reprehensible concept. Then again, as is extremely apparent, I'm an angry teenager.)

As for the hashtags--the Python compiler would ignore it. Furthermore, when I was in middle school, up through sophomore year, I got swept up a lot into the newest things. But most slang is transient, and I don't want my quote to become dated. I want to minimize the ways in which I am a product of my times--a futile battle, perhaps. And yet I try. I want a quote that will be relevant in another ten years, a quote that represents me independent of the specific year's context.

A quote that represents who I am, not what I am.


After all these judgmental statements, I would be cowardly not to offer up my own quote for evaluation. Here it is:

"We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress."
- Richard P. Feynman

So who knows how many of these opinions I'll hold next year? I am sure to be a different person--I hope, better.


Music for this week:

On the Road - Keane

1 comment:

  1. I completely stand with you on your opinion of yearbook shout-outs. While they do freeze those kinds of people as they are now (looking back, they will know who they were in high school as opposed to forgetting because they chose a timeless quotation), they also risk alienating themselves in the eyes of friends who were not included. I, personally, would take all measures necessary to avoid the ensuring subtle questions and accusations that basically boil down to, "Why wasn't I in your quote?"
    I may be biased because I generally don't stand for this new hashtag trend as well :)