Hitting the road: Alia’s 30

Alia Shaukat

When I was little, I would write messages to the stars on the sidewalk. Every afternoon was the same ritual, Elena and I would stroll outside, usually after a grueling and slimy day at work in Snail City (she was mayor, I was city planner), and pull out our dusty plastic cases containing colorful fingers of chalk. We would sit on the pavement, usually only mildly scalding due to the Texas sun, and begin to create a world around us. While she was drawing flying pigs and sunflowers, I was asking the universe questions.

I would draw them out meticulously with chalk, ranging from wondering what we would have for dinner to asking if Elena’s guinea pig would survive the week (Caramel’s funeral took place the following Friday). I realize now that all of my questions were focused on my obsession with the future, and I was set on avoiding making a decision for myself. The tradition carried into middle school, when I doodled in my Algebra I notebook asking:

Will I be happy in high school?

The universe decided that she was done making my decisions for me and told me to look away from to stars and to myself. Sitting here with four years of LASA under my belt, it’s hard to determine the answer. LASA was an experience that I’m not sure I was suited for. I am quite possibly the least competitive person there is, so growing in an environment that promoted a cutthroat community wasn’t something I exactly thrived in. Often times, grades trumped learning, leading to kids doing whatever it took to succeed. Austin’s segregation led to LASA’s unavoidable racial issues which affected minority students on the daily. And, if I’m totally honest, I didn’t feel like I had a breath of fresh air the entire time I was in school (and it wasn’t just because of the mystery smells wafting through the purple hallway).

Although the academics often felt suffocating, I’m glad I attended LASA for the simplest of reasons: the people. I have learned to cherish Friday afternoons: from piling seven people onto Gracie’s full-sized bed just to scream at each other until we found a comfortable position to squishing the same seven people into Jamie’s truck and driving around with the windows down; all of us singing along to songs that we don’t quite know the words to, all of us taking the time to make a mental note of the moment so that we can remember it forever. ORCA (or commonly known as “that weird girl cult”) was my saving grace and my breath of fresh air in high school.

Additionally, the Liberator staff provided me with a community that has come to feel like home. A home that is formed by the putrid smell of dino-nuggs every late night, by crazy debates that echo around the portable, and by a group of students with diverse backgrounds and diverse interests, all coming together to form the strangest family I’ve ever been a part of. I love that this group cares deeply about their surroundings and seek to create an impact on the world. Although I was accidentally placed in Newspaper my freshman year and although if you know me, you’ve probably heard me complaining about pitches or page design every six-weeks, I would never trade it for the world.

It sounds cliche, but I feel like I’ve spent all my time wishing high school was over, but when senior year came, I found myself wishing for more time. Just one more Newspaper class where we deliriously edit and laugh at our terrible headlines, just one more late-night drive and bingsu run with my friends, just one more question I can ask the universe:

Will I ever love more than I have loved in these four years?

I’ve spent all my years searching for answers from anyone but myself, but I’ve since realized that I am the only one that can answer this one. The future, my future, although a terrifying prospect, is full of love and greatness, I can feel it.