And the Beat Goes On

My high school years have moved to a beat. A three-count beat. The beat of my own proverbial drum. Three different years. Three different states. Three different schools. Together they form three different periods of my life. I’ve moved to this beat much like a bohemian traveler—a modern-day beat character minus the cultural cachet—continually immersing myself in new environments, adapting from one situation to the next, all in the hope of seeking new experiences to better my life.

I have spent my time in high school searching for well-being and a sense of identity, leaving behind the comfort of my life in the process. I was a sophomore living in Kansas when the beat began. Having lived there alone with my mother for most of my life, I knew that I only had one opportunity to get to know my father before I left for college and all but lost the chance of ever getting to know him. He and my mother divorced when I was six, and he subsequently remarried and began a new family in California. I always felt something missing since he left. And as difficult as it was to leave my mother, I had to explore this emptiness. I began my junior year in Colorado living alone with my father, while he went back and forth between one of his offices here and his family in California.

A year later I realized I was practically all alone in Colorado. My father spent more time than expected in California for work and to be with his wife and my step-sisters. At first, the freedom of living by myself appeared incredible. Unplanned parties, no curfew, absolute liberties—all the things a teenager is supposed to yearn for. Yet I was yearning for something else. What is the point of being rebellious when there is nothing to rebel against? I was yearning for a sense of family. And so, once again, the beat went on. On to California.

The endless traveler grows accustomed to facing the unknown with sanguine anticipation. Encountering the new becomes familiar, yet the discovery process never gets old. The more people I interact with, the better I understand myself. New schools, new faces, and new struggles all bring new insight. This year in particular I have come across a completely different culture. I was the only Iranian I knew in Colorado besides my father and grandmother. I love my grandmother dearly, but she’s hardly Saturday night company. Now I go to a school where there are literally 500 Iranians. Machmood has replaced the common Joe. I have met people here, Iranian and otherwise, I never could have in Colorado or Kansas. They’re not better or worse, just different.

And every day my Farsi improves and this has helped me overcome a huge barrier in my life—understanding my grandmother and allowing me to connect with the rest of my family through a shared heritage I wasn’t previously exposed to. There is something about saying thank you to your grandmother in her native language that elicits a reaction I’ve often longed for. In Los Angeles, this unlikely city, I have now come to better understand my identity, not just as an individual, but as a part of a greater whole. Colorado and Kansas stay with me always, especially Kansas, but I couldn’t stay with them. It’s not that I’m an impatient sponge soaking up new experiences and quickly moving on. It’s just sometimes a change is needed at a certain time. And sometimes a few are required.

I fancy myself a contemporary Jack Kerouac, though without all the Benzedrine. Like the famed beat writer who repeatedly engrossed himself in the unknown in search of something more, I too found my sense of belonging and self along the American road. But I also found it right in my own backyard. And unlike the boundless fluid sentences that represent Kerouac’s journey, a distinct beat of three defines my high school years of moving on and moving forward.

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