Mustang seniors turn back the hands of time

As they sprint to the finish line, seniors Nathalie Husain, Janice Wu and Ryan McGhee pause to take a walk down memory lane and reflect on their years in high school.

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Remy Wong, Manager

Not so passion-ate project

It was a peculiar sight, at least one that I have rarely seen during an interview. Senior Nathalie Husain held onto the stair railing as she let out a loud, hearty laugh. Her stomach burned, her eyes squeezing tightly in response, but every time she glanced at her friends, more laughter erupted into the halls. 

“A lot of the time I don’t even know why she’s laughing,” senior Ryann McGhee said, rolling her eyes, but displaying a clear, bright smile towards Husain’s uncontrollable joy. 

“That’s one thing about her. She always starts laughing and it makes all of us start laughing,” senior Janice Wu said as she stifled a laugh herself.

“She makes the most ridiculous jokes-”

“She literally shook my hand and started laughing-”

“My cheeks hurt so much right now,” Husain chimed in. 

It was almost like I wasn’t there. As they interrupted each other freely, the way only familiarity allows, the strong foundation of their seven-year friendship was as clear as day. 

Meeting each other in middle school through mutual friends and classes, the three stepped into freshman year without a clue of how close they would eventually become. McGhee shares her favorite moments from that year and recounted the catalyst for their high school journey together. 

“I was very subdued freshman year and I was more of a people pleaser than I am now. I was trying to fit in with people and I felt really different,” McGhee said. “I had a weird stereotype of high school of having to have a lot of friends.” 

Then, something as simple as eating lunch with Husain and Wu changed her mindset. Towards the beginning of their freshman year, time seemed to slow down as the three of them huddled together around one computer. On it was Husain’s and Wu’s passion project from eighth grade, when they opened their own dog walking service.

“It was funny because the pictures looked like they were afraid. When they were holding the leash, they were 10 feet away from the dog,” McGhee said, not afraid to laugh as she reminisced.

“You have really funny facial expressions,” Husain told McGhee, and she proved it to be true while describing her story. Her eyes sparkled with fondness towards the memory, while also poking fun with a teasing smile at the blurry photos used in the project. 

“I liked seeing what [Husain and Wu] did in middle school and it made me feel a little bit closer because it was their thing and I got to see it,” McGhee said. “It was really funny and it felt like I was there.” 

From then on, she felt more comfortable to be herself, not only with her friends, but with everyone else. McGhee promised herself she wouldn’t hide behind a persona anymore, a large part of her current philosophy. 

“I think our relationship during freshman year helped me with my other relationships because it taught me how I wanted to be treated and the friends that I wanted,” McGhee said. “They were an example to what I wanted throughout high school.”

McGhee saw this special moment as a turning point in becoming closer to Husain and Wu. She uses it as a reminder to appreciate the smaller moments in life and defines her friendship as something built off of these specific memories.

“Not everybody else is experiencing it. It was just the three of us sitting there and nobody else knew what we were doing,” McGhee said, and turned to her friends. “I feel so special because it’s easy to remember something that only you experienced.”

Salty Hazardous Lizards

Tick tick tick. Time flew by slowly in isolation, and Wu felt like quarantine would never end. Time didn’t stop, and neither did her friendship with Husain and McGhee. Wu relied on her friends to stay grounded during her entirely online sophomore year. 

“I think sophomore year was one of my worst high school years because of quarantine. My mental health was really bad and the isolation didn’t help,” Wu said. “The fact that I could talk to them made me feel like I was with them and they helped me through those tough times. I really appreciated that.” 

It was one fateful day that changed the way they all viewed the pandemic. Given the task of creating an acronym to help them memorize Spanish predicates, the trio jumped at the opportunity to work as a group. Through the computer, Wu stared at the icons in place of her friends’ faces in a breakout room. Even though she wished she could ask them to turn their cameras on, she decided on a more subtle approach to reach out. They needed to come up with an academic acronym, but nobody said that it couldn’t be hilarious. 

“Salty Hazardous Lizards” was born, and it soon became the name of their group chat. Several FaceTimes, emoji wars and future plans later, the girls still use the same group chat to this day. It provided the hope Wu needed during the pandemic, and became an unexpected addition to their friendship. 

Even though they didn’t have the opportunity to take many pictures or go to school events, Wu would always be the one to brighten the mood through her spontaneous texts in the group chat. “Your type of humor is where you add on when we’re texting,” Husain told Wu while thinking about the origins of their group chat. 

We always had something to talk about and even though we couldn’t see each other, we found a way to communicate and find the positive side of [quarantine].”

— Janice Wu

“We didn’t really hang out that much because we had to be isolated, but we would always talk about that specific class,” Wu said. “We always had something to talk about and even though we couldn’t see each other, we found a way to communicate and find the positive side of [quarantine].”

Being in an academic class together also helped Wu get through the barriers of online learning. She had always been very determined, but her friends pushed her to become the passionate and responsible student she is now. 

“It made me more determined to do my work being in a class with them. We relied on each other and helped each other out when we needed each other,” Wu said. “If we were all struggling, we weren’t as beaten down if we were to take it alone. We can find simple things to be very memorable and we can always just find an inside joke somewhere.”

Who’s Ricky Montgomery?

Bouncing up and down, Husain cheered louder than she had ever before. The band lights blurred her vision slightly, but it couldn’t stop her from shaking her friends in excitement as musician Ricky Montgomery let out one last soulful note. 

As the crowd began filing out, Husain’s head was still buzzing with contentment as she smiled at random strangers and talked to them about how great the concert was. 

“I am pretty extroverted,” Husain said, but the reason she was beaming with joy wasn’t because of the concert. It was because the three girls had no idea who Ricky Montgomery was and bought the tickets on a whim.

“During the concert we literally had our phones out looking at the lyrics,” Husain said. “We were acting excited even though we didn’t know him at all. It was all pretty funny and the concert actually turned out pretty good.”

This remains a very fond memory for Husain, but the most ironic part is that she is not a huge fan of music. It was the collective experience with her friends that made her day. Pretending they were huge fans was their way of sharing a secret that was special to them, and no one else. 

I always felt like I could be myself around them. I felt like they wouldn’t judge me for anything that I said. I felt like they wouldn’t judge me for anything that I said. I could tell them anything, and I felt safe. They’re the closest people to me and they know me the best”

— Nathalie Husain

“It made us feel closer because we don’t need to do big things for us to have a good time,” Husain said. “Us buying a ticket out of impulse to an artist we didn’t even know just showed that.” 

Junior year was difficult for Husain, when the balance between classes, Color Guard and social life became offset by the pandemic. She stopped talking to a close friend of hers that year, which was a difficult transition. 

“I was going through mental struggles myself and it was hard coming back from quarantine and talking to people again,”Husain said. “I was losing a lot of friends but also gaining a lot.”

McGhee was also part of Color Guard, which helped Husain feel like she still had a strong connection to rely on. She further confided in her friends to combat negativity throughout the year, who helped her grow and become a better person. Not only did Husain feel like she could rely on her friends more, but she also became “the mom” of the group, always caring and helping McGhee and Wu.  

“I always felt like I could be myself around them. I felt like they wouldn’t judge me for anything that I said,” Husain said. “I felt like they wouldn’t judge me for anything that I said. I could tell them anything, and I felt safe. They’re the closest people to me and they know me the best.”

Carl’s Jr. … more like Carl’s Senior

The girls’ first impressions of each other were uneventful. They felt nervous, quiet, and a little awkward, but four years later, everything seems to be completely different. Closer than they ever could be, Husain, McGhee and Wu launch into this last year together with every intention to keep their friendship thriving in the future.

“We watched each other grow, both in personality and emotionally,” Wu said. “They changed my view on friendship. They made me feel like I didn’t have to be scared about opening up.”

Their favorite memory from this year was exactly as the rest: unorthodox. On Wu’s 18th birthday, they decided to go to a Soccer Mommy concert. Anything and everything that could have gone wrong did: they got lost, someone cut in line, the singer’s stage presence seemed lackluster. Normally, the girls would react in a dejected and disappointed way, but the Carl’s Jr. across the street saved their night. 

“It was fun because we got to complain together, and it was kind of another one for the books,” McGhee said. “The Carl’s Jr. was better than the concert. It helped us enjoy the simpler things.”

The anecdotes they shared were a testament to this truth: that the little things always triumphed in memory over flashier, glamorous events in life. 

[The concert] was easy to remember and it was funny—that happens to us a lot. It’s always bad, but not so bad that we are harping on it,” McGhee said. “We think about it now as a fun experience. It’s funny, and it didn’t matter that it was bad.”

That fun night was followed by many others. However, the activities and last memories were only half of what makes the trio’s senior year special. They have the opportunity to think about their futures together and figure out what their passions are. Husain is planning on going into photography, McGhee music with her experience playing the oboe, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, ukulele, piano and theremin, and Wu interior design or film. 

“We understand each other more in a creative sense,” McGhee said. “I think there’s a higher chance we will stay together now that we’re going into the same field. We are going to be able to relate to each other even though they’re not all the same.”

In seven, long years, the girls agree that they have come very far and have impacted each other in crucial ways. They have reached the end of an era, yet have so much more to experience and grow as friends. 

“We all kind of have little bits of each other’s personalities now,” McGhee said, without me even having to ask a question. “We act similar, but there’s still stuff that makes us different.”

“We’re not all the same,” Wu agreed. 

They began talking over each other, as if they knew what the others were thinking. 

“It makes us all unique, but we work together.” Husain said.

“It’s like a fun group project,” McGhee said jokingly. 

“We’re like a puzzle. We all fit,” Wu ended with a smile. Ω