Social media editor Gracia Lantis writes about her memories as fireflies that light her life.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]T[/su_dropcap]he distance from my brain to my mouth is shorter than the distance from my brain to my fingertips. I think that’s why I’m better at conveying messages through writing than through speaking. The words use the extra travel-time to shape themselves into their final form. That’s my theory, anyway. The point is, I’m good at writing.

All throughout high school, I’ve written. I joined the newspaper in my sophomore year, as well as the slam poetry team, and I made friends with the English teachers. I wrote stories I was passionate about, I wrote heart-breaking poems, I wrote English papers that I absolutely abhorred, I made thousands of to-do lists, I wrote, as a way to capture moments like fireflies in a jar– to make sense of them. Like when I testified in front of the Nebraska Legislure’s Judiciary Committee last year in favor of a bill that protects student journalists and their advisers.

I didn’t know I was going to testify until the day before the hearing, I rode up to Lincoln with my adviser, Lori Larson, and wrote my speech on the way there. When we got there, I was nervous. The committee was off-schedule and had pushed our hearing back by a couple of hours. There were around 40 other people there to testify in favor of the bill, most were students, some of whom I knew. There was one former NPHS student there to testify. Our testimony wasn’t supposed to be longer than three minutes, and after that, they would ring a bell at you. When I timed my speech in the car it was about 3 minutes and 20 seconds. 

From my journal:

Feb 1, 2019

While the others were testifying, I was trying my hardest to look like I was paying attention, nodding my head and lowering my eyebrows thoughtfully. But internally, I had begun the process of trying to fold over into myself so that I could disappear completely… I ended up being very close to the end of the testifying line. The woman in front of me had a REALLY long testimony. I was finding it hard to appear attentive, and I recognized the same in the senators behind the bench. So in the seconds before it was my turn, I decided to wing my testimony. And, I did. I tried to summarize what I had written in the car with a little call to action at the end. I was thinking, “There’s nothing I could say that they haven’t heard from the 30 people in front of me.” I’m pretty sure it lasted about 30 seconds though. They laughed and thanked me for getting to the point, and I went back to my seat. I felt giddy. 

The next morning, both Lori and I were quoted in an Omaha World-Herald article about the bill. We joked that the reporter had gotten to the hearing late, and since we were the last to go, he quoted us. But actually, it was a big moment for me. Becoming more involved with the bill made me realize how much I was interested in politics. When I read this journal entry, I mentally fall back into the chair where I testified. I remember what the room looked like, what I was wearing, what Lori was wearing, what I ate that day–and that’s important to me.

There are other moments like these that I have documented somewhere. My first tastes of failure brought to me by sports. As well as the victories. A best-friend breakup. My favorite school dance. I have them all saved, my fireflies. I have a lot of defining moments written down somewhere, but there are twice as many I couldn’t catch. Some fireflies, I didn’t know how to put into words. 

I cannot describe what it was like to get to know my favorite teachers, but they were so crucial to the past four years. Lori, easily this whole piece of writing could be about you, but here’s what I’ve got: You convinced me that I could do anything with my future. Without you, I would not be moving to Spain in a few months. I owe you so much. Mrs. Allen, thank you for relentlessly trying to teach English, but also lessons that are less tangible than grammar. Thank you for encouraging students to be better humans, and for caring about me. Mr. Stevens, we didn’t get the full semester together, but I appreciate your constant positive attitude, the fact that you’re never afraid to admit when you don’t have an answer, and that you give every student a chance to be heard. Sash, thanks for being someone I know I can trust, and someone who takes the extra time to make sure that kids are learning. Mr. Butler, I never had you as a teacher, but you were an awesome soccer coach, and I’m so sorry I hit your car twice in one year! Mrs. Tatman, it takes a lot of patience to teach underclassmen, I should know, I was one. Know that your work makes a difference. Thanks for being so patient. I hope that my younger sisters have all of you in classes. 

I also cannot describe what it felt like to belong to a group of people I could trust, and felt in-sync with, like volleyball, slam poetry, journalism, mock trial, and soccer. Extra-curriculars made all the difference in my high school career. My volleyball coaches and teammates taught me not to dwell in the past, slam poetry taught me the importance of being vulnerable with people you trust, and soccer taught me to try new things (even if it turns out you’re not very good at them), Mock trial taught me the power of a well-thought-out argument, and journalism gave me everything.

I can’t describe what it feels like to have an adult discount you because of your age, but this is something I faced more than I expected. Often times, adults will tell you that you know nothing about the “real world,” as if you live in some sort of a fake world. I couldn’t find a solution to this problem. Unfortunately, I was also unable to solve world peace. What I took away is that, sometimes, adults talk to you in the same voice they use with their dog. You must recognize that you’re smarter than them, but be silent. Pick your battles. 

I have to thank my family. Mom and Dad, you let me go to figure things out on my own and were always there when I came back to you. I appreciate you and your hard work more than I can express. And you let me keep jars of fireflies, so that’s cool. To my baby sisters, good luck. I would write a “High School for Dummies” handbook if you asked me to. Please don’t ask me to.

I’m so thankful for the time I spent at NPHS and The Bulldogger. Sorry, we had to part sooner than expected. Thanks for all the memories.

In the fall, I’ll be moving to Cartagena, Spain as a Rotary International Exchange student. In the fall of 2021, I hope to pursue a degree in journalism and political science.

For the last time for The Bulldogger, from my brain to my fingertips, goodbye.