If you ever find yourself in the boys’ bathroom at the end of the 280s hallway, you might notice a maxim written shakily in pen above the urinal on the right: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When I first came upon this inscription, I had to laugh—only at PHS would one come across Lao Tzu-inspired graffiti in the bathroom. But as I’ve reflected upon the entirety of my high school experience, I’ve realized that this trite saying actually does encapsulate the time I’ve spent here.
Coming to high school was terrifying. For four years, I’d been accustomed to the same small middle school, with its friendly faces and slightly homespun classrooms, and the switch to PHS—which felt like a small city in comparison—intimidated me. I’d also come out of the closet in the spring of eighth grade, and I didn’t know what to expect about being gay in high school. The tropes dictated that it would be awful—being shoved into lockers, eyed with fear in the bathroom, hearing slurs whispered in hallways—so my anxieties were numerous.
But my experience has been much more positive than I had expected in September of 2011. Stress for me has not come from homophobic bullies but from test grades and in-class essays; I’ve been overwhelmed by the opportunities offered here, instead of by the size and geography of PHS. In all honesty, my experiences—like those of my peers—have been mixed. Everyone has rough days, difficult weeks, trying semesters. But sprinkled between the all-nighters and the PowerSchool trepidation have been moments of gratitude and joy—watching the mist rise on the front lawn, escaping from tests during fire drills, finally grasping a chemistry problem or the complex ending of a novel.
And PHS has seen me grow enormously. I could write another 15 pages on the things I’ve learned here, from work ethic to self-confidence to conviction in my own beliefs. But my space is limited and my time is short—suffice it to say that I’m a very different person from the Jacob of four years ago, and I have PHS to thank for that.
It’s certainly cliché, but that “single step” I took across the threshold of PHS long ago in 2011—the predecessor to nights up late and mornings up early and the smell of the freshly-cut grass on the athletic fields and the whoosh of cool air that hit me every day stepping into the orchestra room and the Tower room and the learning commons—began the most life-changing journey of my life.