Cherry Creek High School. 2016. Third period. I sat down in my chair on the stage for the dress rehearsal of my Wind Ensemble concert. We were just warming up when a freshman walked into the theater bearing a note in her hand. She walked up the steps to the stage and handed the note to our band director, Mr. Libby. Tim Libby then proceeded to look directly at me, signaling that it was addressed to me. I carefully set my horn on the seat and took the note from his hands. I remember not opening it right away because I doubted its importance. After rehearsal, I took the note in my hands and slowly peeled back the tape to reveal the message: “Congratulations, Simone! You have been elected to represent the senior class of 2016 as the ‘Least-Organized’ individual in the yearbook!”
I stopped reading and figured there must have been a mistake. My school had around 3,600 students, and I tried to keep as low of a profile as I could, which generally was pretty straightforward. At a school with a campus the size of a small college, I found it easy to exist as a lone wolf with minimal human interaction. So you can imagine the betrayal and confusion I felt when I first read this. But the note was indeed addressed to me, and it even had my ID number printed on the top. After accepting that I was not starring in an episode of Punk’d and Ashton Kutcher was not lurking behind me, the real meaning of the note began to sink in: in my class of around 900 kids, I was voted—by my fellow classmates—as the least organized individual.
Not only was I shaken, but I was incredibly offended. What poor excuse for a human being in my senior class thought they knew me well enough to delegate the role of “Least-Organized” to me? While other senior superlatives ranged from “Future Astronaut” to “Prettiest Hair” (both of which I should have gotten, but that is for a different op-ed piece), I was stuck with “Least Organized.” Am I supposed to be proud of that title? When the yearbook committee threw in that category, effectively saying, “f*** it,” did they expect the winner to celebrate their award with pomp and circumstance? That was not the case for me, and I was absolutely furious following my coronation. Sure, it was just a senior superlative and it did not define me, but to the inane masses of Cherry Creek High School, it would become my legacy. I would not be remembered for being president of Poetry Club, or the horn player in three pit orchestras, or even the part-time student who drank Diet Coke from a sippy cup at 7:10 am. No, I would not be remembered for any of those iconic and hallmark performances. The yearbook committee had branded me as the worst failure of over 900 students. They ridiculed and defamed me in front of thousands of people who would read this yearbook for generations to come. People who reached their peak in high school will look back on their senior year in the yearbook when they are old and rotted. They will see my flawless frowning face with the words “Least Organized” pasted across my picture. They will mock me and reminisce about how goddamn fantastic their high school careers were, now a distant memory: a reverie faintly laced with cocaine and vodka.
While I was upset by being called out and unnecessarily criticized, the misrepresentation I had suffered was even more of a blow to my already pathetic levels of self-esteem. While I will not claim to be the Martha Stewart of academic accomplishment, I certainly did at least a decently mediocre job. I had a few folders and maybe a notebook with loose papers tucked in the cover. I even had a pencil case, and so what if it was only filled with colored pencils and crayons? At least I showed up to class with a writing utensil. Even more importantly, I kept my grades up in most of my classes, and even graduated with high honors! I had multiple works published in the school’s literary magazine, and my essays have been used in college counseling courses, accomplishments that I consider to be a marker of success. If the student body really believed the slander that the yearbook has published against me, then at least I managed to maintain a relatively competitive level of intellectual achievement while being unorganized, and that is the true virtue of academia.
In my humble opinion, as the eternally reigning “Least Organized” alumna of Cherry Creek High School, this stamp of dearth and inadequacy should be outlawed as an authentic manner of labelling students. Pitting kids against each other is the opposite of what a healthy school setting should encourage. Schools should be a place to foster growth and to learn the ways in which you work best. It is important to remind ourselves that we were all fragile high school students at one point, practically bursting at the seams with insecurities and self doubt. While it may seem harmless to label people in your high school with defamatory senior superlatives, whether they be “Least Organized” or “Most Likely to Rob a Bank,” these superlatives are incredibly counterproductive to the enriching environment that schools should prioritize. The people of Cherry Creek High School need to mind their own business and let me live my life!