"Open in 2019."
By Michael Salama
I have a vague memory of creating this folder in my Google Drive back in middle school, but I had long since forgotten the actual contents of what was inside—instead, what stuck with me through the years was the anxious anticipation for the time to come when I was allowed to open the folder once again.
"An anxious anticipation for 2019.
So, this year, when the time finally came, I opened the folder. What I found inside were two documents. One was called, in all capital letters, "AMAZING GRADUATION SPEECH IDEA."
I ignored that file and opened the other Google Document, an untitled one. It had only one line—a cryptic message that meant nothing to me at first. It read, underwhelmingly, "df yellow room closet." It took me a second, but then I remembered. I remembered the original purpose of the mysterious "Open in 2019" folder. It was the first clue of a scavenger hunt that I had left for myself almost 5 years ago.
You see, back when I was younger—during middle school—I used to look wishfully toward the future. I would see my brothers, cousins, and older friends enjoying their high school years. From impersonating teachers and playing music in their Senior Talent Shows to getting into heated debates with their varsity coaches, they always seemed to experience a certain level of adulthood that I craved. Yet, I was always a step behind, longing for the years to pass.
So one day, in 8th grade, I wanted to figure out a way to look into the future-to communicate with my future self, if that was even possible.
The solution that I came up with was to make a scavenger hunt for myself. I hid index cards in different places around my house, each card with a clue to the location of the next. I put the first hint in my Google drive, sealed in a folder that was only to be opened when the time was right-when I was going to be a senior in high school. In a time when I was so unsure about what the future had in store for me, this at least gave me some assurance that eventually the year 2019 would come, and all the mysteries between then and now would be solved.
Yet now, when I came across the scavenger hunt again, I saw it from an entirely different perspective. I had lived through the years that my younger self wished would pass more quickly. I had watched the care-free years of middle school come and go without having appreciated how precious and finite they really were. So this time, I saw the adventure as a way to relive the days that I had overlooked-a second chance to dive back into the past.
"dfyellow room closet." That was the first clue. The "Yellow Room" was what we called my bedroom before I moved in from the room that I shared with my two brothers and repainted the walls from yellow to green. Its closet is deep and dark, with old books and photo albums stacked to the ceiling. I began searching for the next clue.
Instead, I uncovered memories from the past. I found a love letter that I wrote to my second-grade crush. I found my Hutchinson Elementary School yearbook. I took a minute to read it through, seeing photos of familiar faces seven years younger and remembering the four square tournaments that took place every day during recess. Then, from beneath the navy blue, hot pink, neon green, and turquoise-magenta t-shirts of the past four years, I unearthed a stained, golden shirt from our class trip to Philadelphia. I was immediately brought back to that special moment when Fun's We Are Young came on in the Hard Rock Cafe and the entire 5th grade class erupted into song.
I finally found a massive Desk Reference manual that I had once hollowed out with a carpet cutter, back in the days when every elementary school kid wanted to be a super spy. Inside the secret compartment, I found the next clue.
It pointed me to a picture frame in my living room. Behind a pencil drawing that I made for the Mystery of History project in Mrs. Hertwig's 6th grade English class, I found the third clue:
"Hello Future Michael. I am fond of your skills. I really think we share a way of thinking, (also a sense of humor) but that may not be a coincidence. Here's your next clue: I've many times broken bones, and your next hint lies on top of me."
I was completely stumped. All that I could gather was that the fourth hint would probably be located on a Fushigi Magic Antigravity Ball that my brothers and I used to own.
I searched all around my house. I combed through Middle School binders I hadn't opened in years; I emptied shelves of silly bands, 24 cards, and Pelham Recreation participation trophies that had been untouched for just as long. I looked in every place possible before determining that the ball must have been thrown out years ago, the clue with it. After three nights of searching, I had to give up on the journey that connected me to my younger self.
In that moment, I realized that, as it was impossible to speed up the clocks as I wished to do years ago, it is just as impossible to turn them back. The Fushigi ball, the next clue in the scavenger hunt—all those experiences that I relived in searching for them—they were all left behind in the past.
On a day like today, when we focus on the end of our time as students in Pelham Memorial High School, I urge the class of 2019 to just take a moment. Take a moment to remember the experiences that made us who we are today. Think back not only to the days we wish we could relive for the rest of our lives, but also to the days we wished away. Remember your best yearbook picture-but never forget that one you couldn't retake. Remember the triumphant section titles, but don't overlook the seasons that ended in heartbreak. Remember the friendships that have lasted since kindergarten, but don't forget the ones that grew apart over the years. Remember the second-grade love letters you wish you hadn't written, and also the ones you wish you had.
As we move on from our time in Pelham and think back to the past, we can only be sure of one thing: that the future will continue to be a mystery.