Senior Farewell: Caleb Blacksmith

I had what could be considered one of the weirdest high school experiences that anyone is ever going to have. Between COVID-19 cutting my first year short and its continued existence as a threat completely redesigning how the rest of my high school experience would occur, how could I or anyone else have a normal four years?

But that’s just the standard for Southeast Polk’s class of 2023. The more I look back at these past four years, the more I can see how weird our high school experience really was. Nothing was ever easy for us, nothing could ever be solved in one easy step or with a one-word answer. That’s what made us so tough, though, and it’s how we can do the things we’ve done.

Senior Caleb Blacksmith

Everyone is going to look back on high school with a few regrets (we were teenagers, what did we really expect?), but I know there’s a few things I’ll never forget about my time here.

I was with the football team for two years, one was spent as a manager and the other as a player. I worked alongside some of the best football players this school and even this state has ever seen, and they’re so incredible at what they do that you probably would know their names without me even saying them.

Me? I was not as talented as those guys, and I wasn’t even the best in my position group. Spending my senior year as a junior’s backup sucked, but you know what? It taught me a valuable lesson that some people are never forced to learn: perseverance. Everyone and everything was telling me to quit, but my gut was saying that it wasn’t the right call. Every day I walked onto that field, every day I wanted to quit. That is, until I played for the first time against Waterloo.

I was a punter up until that point — hadn’t kicked off a tee a day in my life, as a matter of fact — but Coach Nolting came up to me and asked if I wanted to learn how to do it because I’d probably never get to punt. We were up by like 50, so my presence on the field wouldn’t damage our playing so much. 

So with two minutes left of halftime, I learned how to kick off a tee. I wasn’t great at it, but I got the job done. I kicked off the second half, and I did it again right before the end of the game. Never played again after that, but I also never thought about quitting after that. I’d found something that I enjoyed so much that the thought never even crossed my mind after that game. We went on to win another state championship, so that even further proved me right.

The point isn’t that relentless perseverance will always help you achieve some unattainable goal. In truth, it probably won’t even half of the time. What I’ve learned is that you’ve got to find something you enjoy and go after it, no matter what it takes. No matter who’s telling you to quit.

There’s no single way to go about high school, and there’s no specific set of classes that you should take. Everyone’s interests are different and some of the things I found interesting won’t benefit anyone else. My best advice on which classes to take is to find an area of learning that you like and really just dig into it. Take every class on it you can find on it and, even if you never make a career out of it, you can look back and say you spent high school doing what you enjoyed.

In reality, nothing you could ever do here will ever truly prepare you for what’s out there. Instead of wasting time worrying about what will aid you in the future, try to forget about that and enjoy the present. Want to take an art class but entrepreneurship is more beneficial to you? Who cares? Just take that art class and have fun, because tomorrow’s not guaranteed. I believe it was Master Oogway who once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift… that’s why it is called the present.”

As a final thought, there are so many people I could thank for getting me to where I am now. There’s Coach Zelenovich, who put up with me for two football seasons and three-ish years of Advanced Weights (still not sure how or why he did that). There’s also Mrs. Behrens, who always made class enjoyable. And of course, who could forget Kerri Schwemm, who helped me learn how to be comfortable with my stutter and allowed me the opportunity to meet people who would change the way I thought about the world and myself. There are so many more people that I could thank, but honestly they all know who they are and they know what they mean to me. 

I think that sentiment by itself speaks louder than words on a screen.