My alma mater has had quite the history.
Established in 1927, La Plata High School was constructed to replace an elementary school of the same name that was destroyed by a tornado the year prior. The new school was built to house students in grades first through twelfth, making it Charles County’s only secondary school at the time, with the exception of Indian Head High School. That site was the home of La Plata High School for nearly 40 years.
In 1964, the school was relocated to a new building in a different part of town to accommodate its increasing level of students. La Plata High School remained there until the establishment of a middle school became necessary. When Milton M. Somers Middle School was founded in 1979, La Plata High School then moved again to its current location on Radio Station Road.
Throughout its existence, La Plata High School has served as a source of quality education for a number of notable alumni. Football player Matt Dyson was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Hall of famer Don Money played for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Kintestu Buffaloes throughout his baseball career. The original lineup of Good Charlotte consisted of members who all met at that high school.
The point is that La Plata High School has quite a story. My story, on the other hand, didn’t begin until 81 years after the school was founded.
I started high school in 2008. Like most kids fresh out of middle school, I was awkward as hell. My friends were no different. Because of this, our friendships became stronger. This story in particular focuses on my good friend Emma.
Throughout our four years at La Plata High School – or prison, as it was referred to in “The Anthem” by Good Charlotte – Emma and I spent much of our time listening to music. I made her countless mix CDs throughout those four years, filled with tracks by Neon Trees, Brand New, Matt & Kim, Manchester Orchestra, and Something Corporate. Out of all of those bands, I think Emma would agree that we bonded over Something Corporate the most.
Our senior year, I was voted to the homecoming court. Because of this, I had no choice but to attend the homecoming dance, though I probably would have been persuaded into going anyway. My friend group took the typical homecoming photos: all of the girls in one picture, all of the boys in one picture, and one group picture of about 30 kids who were uncomfortably assembled together in order to make the shot. When the photo shoot came to an end around 8:15 p.m., Emma and I decided to start the two minute trek to our high school.
Once we got in her Volkswagen Jetta, Emma said to me, “I don’t feel like going to the dance yet.”
I agreed with her. Homecoming dances were all the same – girls trying to defy the dress code by wearing unflattering dresses, boys showing the rest of the student body how big of a douchebag they could be by wearing white tuxedos, and school administrators fussing at the two groups for dancing provocatively to outdated, less-than-appropriate music handpicked by an overpriced disc jockey. I had to be at the dance by 9 p.m. so I could participate in the traditional crowning of the homecoming king, but until then, the sweaty, bright-lit gymnasium was the last place I wanted to be.
“Yeah, I don’t either,” I told her. “Let’s just drive around until we have to go to school.”
And with that, we hopped in her sedan and drove around the town of La Plata. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak, so I insisted I pick the music. She told me to pick a disc from her collection. I picked her burned copy of Leaving Through the Window.
Ever since I bought it off iTunes (I know, I can do better), I’ve loved Leaving Through the Window. The lyrics are introspective, the music is phenomenal, and the songs never get old. The album is perfect for pop and alternative fans alike, so naturally I forced Emma into becoming a fan. My assertiveness proved successful, and by September 2011, she loved the band like a college student loves a curved test.
We drove up and down route 301, listening to the sounds of 2002. Due to time constraints, we only got through the first three songs – “I Want To Save You,” “Punk Rock Princess,” and “I Woke Up In A Car.” We may even have thrown “iF UC Jordan” into the mix and replaced ‘Jordan’ with the names of kids at school we didn’t like. We were always a mature pair of friends.
Out of the four songs we listened to, I remember the moments surrounding “I Woke Up In A Car” the most. I had heard the song hundreds of times before, but it had never meant as much to me as it did that night.
I woke up in New York City from my sleep behind the wheel, caught a train to Poughkeepsie, and time stood still.
The song is four minutes and 13 seconds long, but I swear the clock on her dashboard was stationary for the duration of the song. All I could think about is where I’d been, where I was, and where I was going, which I admit was a vast amount of information for my 17-year-old mind to process in less than five minutes.
I thought about the past three years of my life, and how I could have (and should have) tried harder in my classes. Don’t get me wrong – I earned fantastic grades. But I could have been a straight A student instead of a B+ student.
I thought about where I currently was in life. I’ve always had terrible anxiety, and not the self-diagnosed Tumblr style of anxiety. I was like Double D on Ed, Edd, and Eddy – always worrying about something. At the same time, I had made a great life for myself. I had wonderful friends. My family was incredible. I was well-liked enough to be voted to the homecoming and prom courts my junior and senior years. I could pretend to be mentally ill a la the characters in Girl Interrupted, but that would make me a fraud.
To quote Motion City Soundtrack, the future freaked me out. I hadn’t thought about college at all. Emma had been looking at various schools in Ohio and Maryland. I knew I liked writing, and I was damn good at it, but I never thought it would be possible for me to make a career out of it. Emma was really into politics, so her goal was to major in political science. She had taken a plethora of AP classes; I had only taken one, and it wasn’t even English related. I was in no way prepared for the future.
I’d never been so lost. I’ve never felt so much at home.
I shook away the obnoxious thoughts and got back to screaming the song at her dashboard. I had all the time in the world to worry; homecoming night wasn’t the time. Regardless, listening to that song with her made me realize I could come to Emma with my problems, whether they were bigger than a Honda CRV or smaller than the tip of a fine point Sharpie.
In Almost Famous, the band and crew travel to their next tour date the night after Russell takes acid at a party. Young journalist William Miller tells band aid Penny Lane he can’t stay on the tour longer than he initially planned, and that he has to go home. Penny Lane responds that he is home.
I see Penny Lane’s point. Some people just feel like home. Emma is one of those people.
And maybe I could live forever, if not ever I had known that you’d be waiting there whenever I am all alone.
To add to my last statement, Emma is one of those people that I know will always be there for me. Denison University is approximately seven hours and 437 miles away from my house in Southern Maryland. That hasn’t affected our friendship at all. I’m awake all hours of the night, so she knows she can text me when she’s bored and can’t sleep or when something is troubling her. Her sleep patterns are more stable than mine, but if I text her in the middle of the night, I know I’ll get a response in the morning.
I woke up in a car.
That night of the homecoming dance, I realized that I was in no way alone. The friends I had in high school are still my friends to this day. They’ve always supported me in my ridiculous endeavors, and I know they’ll continue to. September 24, 2011 was the night of my final homecoming, but that epiphany has been stuck in the back of my head since then.
After high school, Emma went to Denison University to study none other than political science. As I write this, she’s studying abroad in Dublin. We still talk on a daily basis.
When I graduated high school, I started attending the College of Southern Maryland, the institution formerly known as Charles County Community College. When I get my associate’s degree in May, I’ll be transferring to a university. I haven’t decided which one yet. It’s between Virginia Commonwealth University, Stevenson University, Towson University, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. But the uncertainty doesn’t bother me. I’m not afraid of what’s to come, because I have incredible friends like Emma that will be with me every step of the way.
Here I am.