Keeping with my character, completing these blurbs was chaotic and frenetic. Generally, I only would start brainstorming ideas a few days before the deadline, even though I had a detailed schedule. (I would justify this approach by telling myself that I was busy with academics and extracurriculars, but of course, I was lying).

My thought process was not glamorous. I would describe to my friends that I would simply sit at my desk and recall an observation or memory and then ponder its connections to a higher message. These thought journeys were fun, as they allowed me to dabble in various styles of writing, such as storytelling, argumentation and philosophical rumination. And while I was never satisfied with my prose, I was proud of my style.

Nevertheless, there is a sad finality in finishing a column. Life is so satisfying because the things you may learn or observe once when you are young reemerge when you are older, and the accumulation of your experiences offers a more nuanced perspective on the thoughts you once had.

But in published writing, you cannot go back a few months later and rewrite your already published article. Your thoughts are held captive to that one moment in time.

I did not pursue many of my column ideas. Sometimes I felt like my opinions were undecided or not cogent enough, while other times I believed that I did not have the wealth of experiences to make the column engaging. More often than not, I was just too lazy.

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In honor of my final column, here are some random thoughts that I was never able to string together into an article. And that is okay because I know that they will continue to rattle around in my brain and gain new traction as I enter new chapters of my life.


  1. The phrase “It’s a small world” is used frequently in a positive light to describe serendipitous coincidences and how we are all connected even though the world is so large. However, shouldn’t this have a negative connotation? The phrase seems to expose the reality that we rarely interact with others outside of our caste and that tribalism, not humanism, is the operating principle of our day.
  2. In all my activities I am told that if I practice a little bit each day, the continued process will improve my abilities far more than if I use marathon practice sessions. But what seems to be a small amount of time adds up quickly when you have many interests. Where is the balance between sustained practice and time to explore new ideas? Shouldn’t large swaths of time in our days be devoted to letting our imaginations run wild? I do not want my days to be entirely planned out, even if I enjoy the comfort of routine.
  3. There is a tree about a mile from my house that stands in a bed of prairie grass. As development continues, I know that it will inevitably be cut down. Surely there is a metaphor in this, right?
  4. My philosophical tension: Do morality and ethics matter, or is it merely the illusion of them that ensures the world functions peacefully?
  5. Anything concerning United States politics.
  6. As I inch towards college, I find myself repeating some of the same ideas. Am I strengthening my intellectual identity, or am I just becoming long-winded and uninteresting?

Here is to unfinished ideas! If you have any opinions on these ideas, please let me know! I have had the privilege to offer my own.

Adam McPhail is a 2021 graduate of Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters,