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High school exams and answers that are not enough

High school exams were different again this year too. Torn between those who tell you "do not worry, your health is everything, think of your future" and a desire for fullness that keeps you awake at night...

The opportunity, I like to think fortuitous, offered by the pandemic was like an unexpected guest who, having taken off his hat, began to look at me straight in the eye. Someone who arrives uninvited and who decides to get comfortable and rummage through drawers that have been closed for a long time, whose keys I had misplaced. Someone who sits at your table, looks at you and calls you by name, challenging you to the toughest duel of all: life. In addition to all this, which at first glance seemed like an evil that would not allow anything good to happen, came my end of high school exams.

The final exams were different again this year too; I studied half the time at school and half the time on my computer, which responds to input without ever asking anything. A nothingness that became strangely attractive at the moment when, in the face of my yearning and anxiety, the only answer I received from my teachers and classmates was: "Do not worry, it will pass. Concentrate on studying and being well. Because if you have good health, you have everything.”

No matter how hard I tried to erase or eradicate this feeling, it would not leave me. Every time I was told that "if you have good health, you have everything,” my blood boiled in my veins. Because I was healthy, but I lacked everything else. And by taking the false step of falling into the respectability of clichés and pats on the back, I was gradually losing myself, as if “falling sleep.” Just like those who only live for tomorrow, of the "future" (which is very scary). But I do not really fit into this mentality, this frenzy and mechanicality.

A stable job, a top university or a guaranteed salary does nothing for me. And yet, I kept hearing that school is needed to go to university, university is needed to get a master's degree, a master's degree is needed for work, work is necessary to support yourself and your family... What then? Is there really space for those who, faced with such a prospect, stop and ask "why"?

With everything that was happening and continues to happen, can life really be reborn, can it start again? Faced with the silent pain of a loved one, the struggle of a father who does his best for his family in the hope of going back to work, a mother who works her socks off out of love... How can one settle for “being fine”?

Is a good grade in my final exams or a carefully planned life really enough to satisfy that desire for beauty that makes us toss and turn at night? If we could shut our eyes and suppress our souls, we would say yes. If we could lock down our desire, perhaps we could let it all settle down and pretend not to yearn for something greater.

The months spent preparing for my high-school graduation, in such a peculiar year, have shown me unequivocally how impossible it is for man not to hope, to desire, to strive for something great even if it is unknown. Faced with the unknowns of life, the end of high school, the beginning of a new era, it is inevitable to stop and ask ourselves what we are striving for and what we desire. I lived these months in an unusual and unexpected way, with a great desire for fullness and life which, when it clashed with the disillusionment of other people, became anger.

For others, that desire, which knocks at my heart every night and every morning, was perceived almost like an illness due to stress or fatigue. A bit like the madness of Pirandello’s Belluca or Vitangelo Moscarda, who instead have become my friends because they seemed to have found “the secret key to the world”, as Guccini would say. The same for Camus, who in spite of everything was so attached to life that he said that the fundamental question was whether it was worth living or not. For me, it is a great slap in the face that still burns and makes me walk. Studying has become an immense resource, a magnifying glass to help me get to the bottom of that restlessness and that wound that always burns. Certain faces “on paper” have become my friends because of their boundless desire, just like mine, even centuries later.

Read also – The promise of belonging to each other

So now, even though I am still tangled up in my difficulties, suffering for unforeseen circumstances, responding to the mad beating of my heart, I am trying to learn to keep my eyes and ears wide open. You never know if you might hear the whistle of a train or life being reborn.

Agata, Catania, Italy