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Finding Eric Lowe: A Reflection

Like many teenagers, I had a deep yearning to fit in with my peers.  But sometimes, I would break away from the status quo and befriend students who were often ignored.  This "breaking away" was something that  [I would like to think] made me different from the rest.  After all, it is not often that a teen possesses the ability to relate to students that were often ignored—or even blatantly dismissed—at their high school.  But while the intent of sharing this story has little to do with patting myself on the back, it is my hope that in writing this brief excerpt, I can discuss a friend that was very important to me:  Eric Lowe.

Like me, Eric was a quiet youth that often kept to himself.  I would often see him hunched over his desk, focusing his attention on whatever was lying in front of him.  I remember how he wore a black, tattered jacket that looked like it was made out of a poor imitation of leather, and how his glasses were not only thick, but black rimmed.  He would often sweat, which would magnify the acne on his face.  Yet in the midst of his seemingly problematic appearance, I knew that he was a diamond in the rough.  This is because he had a deeply, reflective personality that demonstrated a depth so unfounded—and almost unreal—for a youth of his age. 

Though I immediately noticed Eric, it was not until he had a fight with a fellow high school student that I realized how important it was to talk to him.  This is because—during the course of the fight—he was literally thrown atop of my desk.  As he fought and struggled to gain his footing, I realized that Eric was more than a kid that was routinely pushed around by our peers—he was a person that deserved and commanded our admiration and respect.

Sometime after I witnessed this fight, I made an effort to befriend Eric by having lunch with him in our school’s cafeteria.  While we broke bread together, I vividly remember his wicked sense of humor.  Like me, he hated the exclusive nature of our high school, and yearned to have friends that accepted him for who he was.  Though he could be rather abrasive sometimes, I still admired his bluntness and anger—and often viewed both as a reflection of my own.

Yet what I loved most about Eric was how unapologetic he was about who he was.  He never tried to fit in; rather, he took a stance against the dismissive culture inherent in our school.  He not only mooned everyone during our high school’s graduation [an act I wanted to jump up and cheer about during the ceremony!], he also told many of the most obnoxious individuals in our high school to kiss his a---.  The latter happened in Ms. Studenka’s class; I remember because we were having a round table discussion on what we wished we could change about our high school experience.  When one student stated, “I wish Eric would speak up more in class…”—he let her verbally have it.  I still smile whenever I think about the stance he took. 

Eric also took a stance to not appear in our high school’s yearbook—another thing I admire about him.  He not only refused to take any senior pictures, he refused to take any other photos of himself in our high school’s yearbook.  Yet while there are no photo memories of Eric Lowe, I still hold on to MY memories of him.  This is because I admired Eric Lowe’s spirit of deviance and omission.

I also admire the fact that he possessed a courage I did not have.  This is because, even though I often fret about my high school experience, I still tried my best to fit in.  I not only overly involved myself in extracurricular activities—including the Yearbook staff and our school’s newspaper—I also failed to take a stance when my peers made fun of me for hanging out with Eric.  This is because—rather than deal with their accusations that Eric and I were dating—I abruptly stopped befriending him altogether out of fear.  Unfortunately, this is a decision I regret—even to this day. 

While I often want to kick myself for succumbing to the pressures of my peers, I often use this experience to better relate to my students.  And while I am now a Grant Writer and blogger, not a day goes by that I don't think--and thank--Eric Lowe for the stance he took so many years ago at Murray-Wright High School.