An Open Letter to Freshmen

Four long years lie ahead of you. What will you do with them?


Casey Murray, Opinion Editor

Good morning, Class of 2023.


You have as of now survived two full weeks of high school. Congratulations! The fact that you’re reading this letter proves that your brains have not yet been crushed by the late nights, the homework stacks of doom, and the standardized tests you will come to hate with a burning passion. Are you feeling overwhelmed all the same? Tired? Beaten into submission? Good. That’s normal.

You have spent your entire lives playing on the beach, building sand castles and knocking them over. You may have gotten sunburn. You may have had sand thrown in your eyes. This is called metaphor, by the way. You’ll learn about it in English class if you pay attention.

And now you have been plunged into the deep, cold waters of high school. Here at LFHS we have vibrant coral reefs, dizzying seamounts, and dolphins beyond counting. We also have icebergs, trenches that plunge into the uttermost deep, and sharks. Steer clear of the sharks especially. They bite.

So you gaze around in wonder and terror at the endless blue that surrounds you. Nothing is familiar, and in the ocean there are no road signs. There is only one thing you can do — swim!

Throw yourself into every single thing into which you can throw yourself.”

The sophomores, juniors, and seniors you see crowding the halls are still here because we started swimming and did not stop. Most of us have followed roughly similar paths, schooling together as a pod of dolphins would. There is beauty in that. Some of us have sailed off on our own, setting out defiantly into the wide watery waste as a blue whale would. There is beauty in that, too. There is only one thing you must never do — stop swimming.

Throw yourself into every single thing into which you can throw yourself. Dance Team, French Club, Enviro Club, Theatre, Model UN, Young Writers, Gamers Club, embRACE, Student Government — there are far, far too many things going on within the walls of 1285 McKinley for you to stand idly by and do nothing. You will make friends. You will learn about the world. You will learn about yourself. You will swim, and move, and dwell beneath the rolling waves, and your days will be filled with excitement and the sweet smell of victory as you try new things and succeed.

You will also fail. Many times. Sometimes the failure will be private — a poor test grade, an unpleasant experience with a homework deadline, a disastrous first date with the great and powerful being we mortals name the College Board. Sometimes the failure will be public and you will crawl away with your tail tucked between your legs in shame. In your journey through the open sea, you will meet many sharks. They will make you feel miserable.

But the mother whale will never abandon her calf, and we the other denizens of this unfamiliar ocean will always be there to drive away the sharks. All that you have to do is to keep swimming, and the rest will, in the end, take care of itself.

Get action, as Teddy Roosevelt said. The next four years of your life are yours to do with what you will. You are in the ocean now, yes, but in the shallow end. The waters are warmer, the sharks less vicious. If you fail, it will not sink you forever; but if you succeed, you will still have a victory to celebrate. There are but two kinds of people in the world: the doers and the critics. Here you have a chance to find out which you are and an opportunity to change that if you like. Are you a critic, idly swimming in circles and never venturing beyond the reef? Or are you a voyager, a radiant morning star that will light the way for those to follow?

When colleges consider your application paperwork long years hence, they will linger on your transcript. For all the talk of a “holistic admissions process,” grades will still take a place of prominence. There is no denying it. If you want to get into college, you will need good grades.

But the purpose of a high school education in the United States is not to prepare students for college. Education is a far more noble and beautiful endeavor than a ladder climbing from rung to rung to rung to rung without end. It is not a hamster wheel; it is an attempt to kindle a fire.

Your teachers are here to light a fire in your mind. It is a fire of life, a fire of wonder, a fire of insatiable curiosity, a fire that dances with beauty beyond measure at the simple pleasure of burning. In the voyagers, in those who set out to ride the roaring seas, the fire burns strongly like the midday sun. In the critics, it sits there, cold and dead like moon-bleached bone. The purpose of education is to kindle the fire within you and mold you into a voyager.

It is impossible to start a fire without fuel, and it falls to you, dear freshmen, to provide that fuel. Attack your studies not out of resignation or to succeed or to impress your parents but out of a genuine passion for learning. Read books. Watch a documentary on the oceans. Try new things. Meet new people. Go out into nature and see her beauty for yourself before she is buried beneath concrete and condominiums. Read more books. Laugh. Cry. Try. Fail. Succeed. Tell a story. Sing a song. Learn an instrument. Start a club. Embark on a quest to reform Student Government. Audition for a play. Perform in the Talent Show. And when you have done all those things, do them all again ten times over. 

Time is the single most valuable possession any of us have.”

You have at best another 80 years on this magical, spectacular, paradisiacal, unbelievably beautiful mote of dust that we name Earth. You will see at best another dozen high school football games, a dozen LFHS plays and musicals, eight dances in the Competition Gym, four more Talent Shows. You will celebrate 80 more Thanksgivings, vote in far fewer presidential elections. Time is the single most valuable possession any of us have. So set out for the sunlit sea, dear freshmen, and may your places never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


Yours Truly,

Casey Murray