Senior column: From depressed to the press

I make a lot of to-do lists. My type-A mind requires that every day be filled to the brim with productivity, every moment has an assigned task, every day has a specific plan. In other words, I tend to (ashamedly) be a slave to American hustle culture. This being said, my four years of high school did not go to plan.

I planned on being a band kid for all four years, taking all AP classes and having tons of friends. But by the end of my freshman year, I dropped out of band, took one AP class that I almost failed, ate lunch alone and cried copious amounts of tears.

I did not plan on floating through my sophomore year in a depressed haze and I certainly did not plan on walking into room 1315 in search of an application to join the newspaper. I did not plan on joining “The Hebron Hawk Eye;” I didn’t even know that the school had a newspaper until the end of my freshman year. I just liked to write and needed an elective to fill my schedule. At the time, I didn’t realize that filling out an application to join “The Hawk Eye” would change my life.

I was quickly immersed in journalism culture, which was surprisingly fun and social. Because I knew practically no journalism formats or concepts, I had to get out of my comfort zone to ask questions and do lots of hands-on learning. After a semester of being a reporter, I was offered the Web Editor position. I naturally matured and grew more into myself during this time, and I am thankful for the role that the newspaper publication played in that.

I also, like most people, did not plan on COVID happening. I spent days leading up to my junior year spring break excitedly discussing my plans to journey to New Orleans and board a cruise ship to explore islands and have the time of my life. I made it to NOLA only for the cruise to be canceled due to the pandemic-induced national lockdown. Spring break turned into two weeks, then three, then four, then I ended my junior year waving at my friends through a computer screen. 

Knowing I wanted to be more involved in newspaper, I was offered the Managing Editor position, despite the ambiguous future of school and the publication. I practiced to prepare for the UIL Feature Writing competition, in which I placed first in state with a “Tops in Texas” distinction; this is my highest high school achievement. This time of staying home and avoiding contact became a time of self-discovery for me; I slowed down, spent time with my family and found new hobbies to fill my time.

By the time I entered my senior year, my extroverted self was in dire need of human interaction, but I did not plan on making the three best friends I’ve ever had. It’s bittersweet to know that we will all be going our separate ways at the end of this summer, but I’ve spent almost every day in room 1315 writing, planning and laughing with them. My four years in high school have not looked the way I had planned, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve learned to be self-assured, confident in my personality and capabilities, accepting of change and countless other lessons that I will carry throughout my life. 

Today I got the second dose of the COVID vaccine, and the future seems bright. I don’t know where life will take me now, but I plan on approaching it in typical Hailey Dirks fashion – with a plan, perseverance and many lists.