The fork in the road

By Ritika Khanal, Co-Editor-In-Chief

It was an ordinary September night, and the house was quiet. Through the thin wall separating my brother’s room from mine, I could hear his gentle snores as he slept, and outside, the occasional car drove by.

Reaching down, I picked up my phone. “1:30 a.m.” my robotic screen reader software said. For the past five hours, I’d been trying to shut my brain off, and it wasn’t working.

“Am I making the wrong decision?” I kept asking myself.

Throughout the first few weeks of school, my freshman honors English teacher, Vince DeMiero, had been asking me about joining the Hawkeye, which, it turned out, he also advised. At first, I had no idea what on earth this “Hawkeye” thing was, so I ignored him. Then, he started talking to the entire class about how cool being involved in clubs and activities at MTHS can be.

“I don’t want you to be discouraged from joining because of money or transportation or whatever your concerns might be,” he told us. “Talk to someone, because we’re here to help.”

Hearing him say that made a huge impact on me, and it was those words that were swirling around in my head as I lay tossing and turning in my bed that night. In the few short weeks of working with DeMiero, I had begun to admire and respect him, which automatically made me want to work with him as much as I could.

Every couple of days, I would get a gentle nudge from him, asking me if I’d thought any more about joining the Hawkeye. Eventually, I began to think that maybe I should give it a shot. But how?

As I entered high school, I promised myself that I wouldn’t ask my parents for anything I didn’t absolutely need. I knew that if I joined Hawkeye, I would need a ride home, and that in my mind was something I didn’t absolutely need from them. Plus, there were the usual doubts and fears: not being good enough, not having anyone to help me navigate unfamiliar environments, not being accepted by peers my own age, etc. So, as I lay wide awake that night, I told myself, “Yes, you made the right decision by not joining.”

Yet, the guilt remained. I didn’t want to keep saying no to DeMiero, either. I’ve never liked saying no to people, but here was a person who I’d already come to admire, who clearly believed in me and, for whatever reason, saw some potential in me. How could I keep saying no to that?

When I walked downstairs the following morning to leave for school, my mom took one look at me and told me we needed to talk.

“What is bugging you?” she asked in her stern Nepali way. “You look like a ghost paid you a visit last night.”

“Nothing,” I said quickly.

“No, you tell me right now,” she said.

So, I did. When I came home that day, my mom had a plan.

“Your brother is picking you up from Hawkeye tomorrow,” she said sternly. “It’s obviously important to you, so go do it.”

I wasn’t going to be told twice. On Sept. 13, 2018, without fully realizing what I was getting myself into, I stepped into room 130 for the first time, and that one little decision would go on to shape my entire high school career.

The last few years with the Hawkeye have given me the opportunity to put on many hats, serving as a staff reporter my freshman year, op-ed editor my sophomore year and then as co-editor-in-chief for both my junior and senior years. I reported through a pandemic, and wrote about things I never imagined I would. I walked in as a little freshman, scared that no one would accept me and that I wouldn’t have the support I needed. Today, I can proudly say I’ve held several leadership positions, highlighted some pretty amazing people and programs at MTHS and most definitely found a group of friends who have not only accepted me for who I am, but have supported me through thick and thin.

However, I often wonder what would have happened if I had taken another path those first few weeks. If I hadn’t been in that particular freshman honors class, If DeMiero hadn’t continued to encourage me, if my mom hadn’t chosen to intervene to give me the opportunity, if I’d chosen to let go of my gut feeling that I needed to join. It’s possible that another path would have eventually wound its way to Hawkeye, but it’s also quite possible that I would have never ended up where I did.

One little turn down a slightly different path, and I may never have had the chance to make the memories I’ve made. That one little decision, to say yes instead of no, has helped me find some of the closest friends I’ve ever had. I’d like to think that I’ve grown as a person, writer and leader. I’ve had amazing opportunities to connect with the top journalists across the country and I’ve had the honor of telling the stories of MTHS.

Now, four years, more than 40 articles and too many sleepless hours later, it’s hard to believe that this chapter of my life is coming to an end. I’m standing at another fork in the road, with quite a few paths to choose from.

No matter where my path leads next, I will never forget my experience as a journalist for the Hawkeye. To our readers, thank you for everything.

Thank you for trusting us to tell your stories, for supporting the work we do and for allowing us to tell our own stories. Thank you for putting up with the incessant blind jokes that have been made every issue, for dealing with my attempts at being funny and most of all, thank you for reading.

I hope I’ve helped you feel represented, or encouraged you to think about something you hadn’t considered before. Before I sign off and pass everything off to my extremely talented and capable Hawkeye siblings for the upcoming issues, I thought I’d make an attempt at one more little piece of advice. If an opportunity arises that you’re not quite sure about taking, the answer is yes. It just might make a world of difference.

Thanks again for everything. Ritika out.