Turner’s parting thoughts

Four painfully long years of mingling with judgy teenagers and every opportunity to overload or stress yourself out–what could go wrong? High school is by all means a time for self growth and discovery, and I learned that firsthand. 

I’ve probably heard a million times over how a diamond can only be formed under immense pressure. Now, while I don’t consider myself any sort of precious mineral, I’ve certainly been stressed! It’s exactly that environment and pressure that led to my practically-ensured self-growth and discovery period. But how exactly did all of that affect my self-identity- and who exactly am I anyway?

It’s difficult to answer any of that outright because of just how fast-paced an environment high school is. Every couple months my life has radically changed. I’d even aim to say “Turner” was a relatively different person from month to month, even if every version shared the same 5’ 7” meat-suit. We may all have walked around calling ourselves Turner Wittstruck, but modern day Turner wouldn’t be caught dead in those double 0 skinny jeans he tried to make work last year. I wish scientists made solar eclipses bright enough to burn those memories from my mind. Alas, I haven’t been so lucky.

Fashion faux-pas aside, I’ve been a revolving door of a kid for the past couple years. Academically, I was always busy, to say the least. I chose to be an Early College AP kid who took a singular study hall ever. I pushed myself, if not just to say I was taking the hardest courses. While these classes and that workload definitely contributed to my complex of having to be consistently bright, I wouldn’t say it exactly aided in creating the Turner I recognize today.

To take up even more of my time, I lived and breathed my activities. I figured out early on I was an arts kid. I took up spots in show choir, jazz choir, chamber choir, drama shows, a music honors society, and the International Thespian Society. I even experimented with leadership, as I was on both Junior Class Board and National Honor Society.

By that point I definitely had a resume to boast, but bullet-points on a college application don’t make an identity. Maybe I could consult public opinion for some  answers?

Turner is attending UNL to study journalism and music

Whether someone says it to your face or you hear it through the grapevine, opinions of how people perceive you are always flying around in high school (and will likely make it back to you at some point). Inevitably, these words will start to resonate with how you view yourself, for the better or worse. The word “annoying” was always a fan-favorite. I’ve heard it thrown at me since I was four, and I doubt it’s going away anytime soon. Not too long after, everyone found a new word for me: “gay.” I can’t say for sure why middle school students felt that it was their job to speculate on a 12 year old’s sexuality, but it quickly grew to be another piece of how people around me seemed to view me.

While I’d like to imagine all these areas I looked for answers in could magically tell me who I am, it will never be that simple. “Turner, the annoying-choir-drama-early college-AP kid-that-likes-dudes” is just never gonna have the same ring as “Turner Wittstruck.” What I really took away after four years of fumbling with my own self-concept is as straight-forward as it sounds: your sense of who you are has to come from you. Not from what you do, not from who you speak to, but from who you are. One would think a global pandemic’s worth of alone time would’ve taught me that, but one would’ve also been wrong in that presumption.

 I’ll concede, while packing my schedule with commitments may or may not have been how I grew into who I am today, it really was the personal time I put in that gave me a better understanding of who I am. I’m not all the way there yet- I have college for that- but I’d still be ignorant not to appreciate my time at South for snowballing this loud-meat-suit of a kid into the Common Sense secretary before you all. I, Turner Wittstruck, have pain-stakingly made it through high school, and managed to stumble upon pieces of who I am along the way. For that, I couldn’t be more grateful. I just wish I had never stumbled upon those awful skinny jeans.