My reflections on High School at HPA
I went to the Hawaii Preparatory Academy for high school. It is a private school nestled just outside the town of Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii. I wouldn’t mind sending my kids there, though I’m not sure how my wife would feel about that.
Recently, the person from our class whom is in charge of collecting the notes from the people in our class for the quarterly alumni newsletter, Ma Ke Kula, sent out an email asking for updates from us. Someone did a reply-all and many people, including myself, responded in kind. It brought back some memories of people I haven’t seen or heard from in almost 15 years. Many of these people were not at the 10 year reunion that I went to. It did bring back some memories most certainly.
Paul Graham wrote an essay on What Youll Wish Youd Known, which was a speech he wrote but did not give to a high school graduating class. It was featured on Slashdot, and also stirred the high school memory pot further.
The class of 1991 at HPA, of which I am a member, seemed a bit different from the other classes at HPA. Maybe all the other classes are like this, I dunno, but some strange things happened at HPA during our junior and senior year.
The first big thing to occur was that one of the members of the class of 1991 committed suicide right around Thanksgiving of 1989. That had a huge emotional impact on everyone. I also had a closer look at death sometime after this when an older friend of my step-fathers basically died right in front of me during lunch!
Within HPA, there were some major changes afoot. There was a changing of the guard at Headmaster, from a well-respected, well-loved man to a man that a member of the Class of 1990 described as a Ken Doll — plastic and fake. Some long-time faculty were also “removed” from duty (possibly due to this new headmaster). Many of the changes were not seen as positive. In fact, many of them were viewed in a very negative light.
When I went to talk to the headmaster at the time of our 10-year high school reunion, who was at HPA as as a lower-level administrator at the time I was a student there (and he was well respected, I might add), described the 1990-1991 school year as “a dark time in the history of HPA–days we try not to remember.” Apparently, this headmaster was doing some questionable things with his authority.
Then there was the class itself. While our graduating class had a mere 65 students in it, it felt a lot smaller to me than that. Various attempts at bringing our class together met with resistance from within. There were definately some smaller groups within our class. About the only thing we had in common as a class was that we all had a tendancy to do our own thing.
One thing that was nice about the 10 year reunion I went to and this recent flurry of email was that I got to see that everyone, including myself, has changed quite a bit since those days when we were insecure teenagers. Everyone turned into a respectable adult. Many of us are now married and have kids of our own.
The amazing thing about the passing of time is it can allow you to forget either the good things or the bad, depending on your point of view on a particular situation. I remember many more good moments at HPA than bad. I also know that there were many opportunities I missed, some that I know of, and many that I don’t. There were people that I wish I had gotten to know better and didn’t for the wrong reasons.
During high school, I had no idea where I “fit in” with everyone else and I struggled to find my place world. I lacked the confidence in who I was and what I wanted. Over the years, I now realize that not “fitting in” is okay, and in fact “being different” and being comfortable with that is far better.
Where I have been the most successful in my life is when I have, in a sense, created the means by which I am important and invaluable to others. Even in high school, some of my greatest successes came from this concept. What’s amazing about this approach is that you really don’t need to “fit in,” the world will find a way to accomodate you.
“The only real difference between adults and high school kids,” writes Paul Graham, “is that adults realize they need to get things done, and high school kids don’t.” Looking back, I truly believe I got things done, even though I usually wasn’t happy with my life back then. Maybe, as my mother told me several times while growing up, I am destined for great things after all.