DI Voices | Growing from discomfort


Courtesy of Jennifer Mullen

Maine West High School’s Fine Arts Department performed Mel Brooks’ musical “Young Frankenstein” from Feb. 16 to Feb. 19. Junior Youssif Massri (left) portrayed Dr. Frankenstein, while junior Ethan Mattson portrayed Frankenstein’s monster.

By Raphael Ranola, Opinions Editor

I recently had the pleasure of going back to my alma mater, Maine West High School, to watch the annual winter musical — the biggest event of the performing season. They had masterfully performed Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein.” 

Maine West is located in the town of Des Plaines, Illinois, known for its relationship with serial killer John Wayne Gacy, its proximity to O’Hare Airport and formerly The Original McDonald’s (which was really a replica before its demolition and was actually the ninth McDonald’s restaurant). 

Most importantly, we have a damn good theater program — in my humble opinion, at least. 

There’s a certain comfort that comes with the mundanity of Des Plaines, also known as the “City of Destiny.”

Every grade level whose schooling was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic can vie for the position of “had it the worst.” But let’s take a second to consider the current college freshmen. 

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Our junior year was fully remote and we were able to get a taste of real high school for one final — masked and socially distanced — hurrah before being shipped off to college and being forced to relearn how to be a human all over again. 

We’re just a bunch of kids who are kind of stunted. Adjusting to college is already a hard task. Having an atypical high school experience creates even more maladjustment. 

That’s why going back to my high school and watching my underclassmen friends shine on stage felt natural and cozy. Everyone, students and faculty alike, was elated that I had made the trek all the way from the cornfields of Champaign-Urbana. It felt like home in a way.

I haven’t felt like that during my college experience thus far. Having spent one semester here, you could say that I’m now acclimated to the environment, but I can’t say that I feel fully comfortable yet. Things made a lot more sense in high school; my world was a lot smaller. 

After the show, my friend Joe — a fellow alum of the Maine West Fine Arts program — and I went up to the makeup room that we had used for “Beauty and the Beast” to congratulate the successful thespians and catch up. Joe was the Lumiere to my Cogsworth just a year ago.

We had a wonderful conversation and we left while they went to their cast party, feeling like they were on top of the world. And that was that. We had our fun, I thought, and now it’s their time. Anything further would be a tremendous overstay of our welcome.

My senior year felt like yesterday. Whereas graduating in four years might as well be an eternity. A faraway reality for a version of myself that I haven’t met yet.

Soon enough, our short stay in the comfort of our sleepy town came to a close.

I could not have fathomed how busy I would’ve been my senior year when I was 14 and scared to get involved and become a part of the wider world. 

And now I’m in that same headspace, wary of the four-year journey I have just embarked on. I’m a timid freshman again, albeit with more facial hair and a slightly better sense of style. 

It’s an immense honor to be writing to you as an opinions editor, a role that I earned despite being a timid freshman. How I achieved this is beyond me, but I vow to rule the Land of Opinions fairly and even-handedly.

Adjusting to the countless responsibilities that come with this role was anything but comfortable and natural, but I am excited about the way in which this role will change me for the better. I wonder how I’ll reflect on this particular column in four years. 

Being a freshman again gives me yet another opportunity to be uncomfortable, to stop and smell the roses and figure out my place in the world. 


Raphael is a freshman in LAS. 

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