High school is a time for learning, but we all knew that.
We learn about how to write, how to graph and how the world works. We also learn much more important things in school: We learn how to make friends, how to be friends and how to deal with disappointments, sadness and anger.
It's a time for learning about ourselves and the people around us. Most of life's lessons aren't taught in the classroom. Sure, we learn them at school, around school and because of school, but we don't learn to be independent souls in math class.
I have to say my high school career has been anything but easy. Sure, I didn't give myself any breaks. I've taken and will take AP/Honor classes all through high school. Emotionally, though, it's been one big roller-coaster ride, and in the end I feel like I have learned some of life's hardest and greatest lessons.
My freshman year, my family was told that my dad had pancreatic cancer. I didn't even know where or what the pancreas was (I did learn sophomore year in biology). All I knew was the scary word "cancer." It's a word that every family fears, and prays won't happen to them.
Death isn't easy for anybody to deal with. Cancer is terrible, because death looms on the horizon. You never know when it might come, and that's something you have to learn to deal with. I learned to try to make every day worth something; to be there and enjoy what moments I could with my dad.
Anyone who has had to go through chemotherapy knows how terrible it is for everyone in the family. I saw my dad whither away slowly, radiation making him sick and lethargic. The once-active man who was my father became someone else.
I don't think my mother knew what to do. Her husband, the man who had helped her and been with her for so long was possibly on the verge of death. She became very, very sad.
It was one of the hardest things for my sister and I to watch our father lose interest in a lot of his activities and stay in his room, and hear my mom crying behind closed doors. It's a strange thing when for the first time you see your parents vulnerable to the problems of the world.
Through it all, my sister and I went through school. We still took hard classes, and did relatively well in them. School was a place to push it all aside, to focus on that day.
There were plenty of weekends when I was alone at home because my parents took trips to doctors all over the state and country. I learned to be independent and to live by myself, which most kids only learn after leaving for college.
I'll never forget the day my mom finally did break down in front of me, telling me how she was sure my dad was going to die. And I got angry. I yelled at her. How could she have that attitude? How could she just give up hope?
That was another lesson I learned: Sometimes we have to help people through things.
My mom didn't have enough hope, so I tried to have enough hope for the both of us.
It's a scary thing when you're a teenager and you realize that the family is relying on you. I couldn't believe that I was the only one who seemed not to have given up.
Things got better for my dad. The chemo and the surgery seemed to work. My dad was going to be one of the few people who survive pancreatic cancer. I had already convinced myself this was what was going to happen anyway.
There have been several other serious problems. My mom's feet have a pain no doctor can explain, so she can hardly move.
The lady who once walked around a classroom and all over Canyonlands could no longer walk without serious pain.
My sister left for boarding school, which left me alone to deal with my parents' health problems. It was hard to see her leave, the one person who truly understood what was happening to our family.
I wanted to breeze through high school, but it was much harder than that. I feel like screaming, "Excuse me, I'm a little too young to deal with this right now."
I don't want this to sound like I'm complaining about how unfair life is, and I don't need to be told it's unfair.
"You can be as mad as a mad-dog at the way things went, you can swear and curse the fates, but in the end we all have to just let go," said Benjamin Button, and I've really taken this to heart.
It may not be the easiest thing in the world to just let go. But at some point we all have to let go of pain, sadness, anger and grudges. We have to learn to accept what comes, and have the fortitude and will to do the best we can with what happens.
We cannot predict the future. Life is full of all sorts of surprises just waiting to get us when we least expect it. But isn't that what makes life so interesting, that we have no idea what's around the next corner? We have to enjoy the moments we are in, and not think what may be coming up, to enjoy the now.
Davis Harlow is the arts editor at El Diablo, the Durango High School student newspaper. He is the son of Tom and Michelle Harlow of Durango.