How to Win the Game of Life

This year, I had the amazing opportunity to get to know an extraordinarily strong individual. He has come a long way since the first time I met him. He has matured into someone who can take the hardships of life, learn from them, and transform through them. For that, I am extremely proud of him.


I met Aden Schulze-Miller for the first time when he was a freshman during my sophomore year. Actually I didn’t really meet him, but more realistically, observed him. We had journalism together, first period. We were always on opposite ends of the room and so I never spoke to him that year. However, when he spoke in class or answered a question, he spoke with loads of intelligence. I thought of him as a very interesting person. 

Schulze-Miller, or Schmiller, as he currently calls himself, shared that his personality during that year was significantly quieter and contained a higher amount of social anxiety than he does today. He didn’t have many friends, didn’t enjoy his classes, but achieved good grades anyway, and didn’t pursue personal passions. Instead of enjoying himself, he drifted through the year with the goal of getting through high school quickly.


“I didn’t care a lot about my image,” states Schmiller. “I wore the same black dirty coat every day and had a mop of dirty hair.”


Schmiller entered high school after experiencing a tough time in middle school. Naturally, he wanted to get in and out of it. Today, this is something that he lives to regret. 


“Now it seems like it went by really fast and I wish I enjoyed it more,” Schmiller reflects. 


After his freshman year, Schmiller wanted things to change in order to enjoy his time at school a bit more. But with life throwing him sudden curveballs, it became difficult to take a swing once stepping up to the plate. He left the journalism class as a sophomore, and so I never saw him that year. However, Aden explained that he went through his first real breakup with someone he had dated for two years. His breakup hit hard because he has always been one to form tight bonds with those he is close to, however he took the hit and learned from it. The breakup inspired him to put himself out there by meeting new people, to work on himself as a person, and to just do better overall. He also decided to step up even more in his classes by getting even better grades. He also started to discover his passion for writing when taking Mr. Racine’s honors english course. Looking back to that year, Aden sees a boy who struggled trying to figure out life. 

That year, Aden was motivated by his grades and by the interests he began to pursue. As a sophomore he took an art class to pursue that passion. However, genetically he inherited shaky hands, so drawing was a struggle. Because of that, he turned to writing. With writing comes penmanship, and he knew that he wanted to have nice handwriting, but it didn’t come easy for him. Instead of practicing a more basic style of handwriting, Aden developed his own. This was one of the first things I noticed about how unique he truly is.


“That’s why my handwriting is so different from other people,” Schmiller says. “It’s a mix of print, cursive, and my shaky hand. It’s unique.”


Aden is currently in his junior year, which is also the year we reunited in the journalism class by writing for the school newspaper. It was during that year when our relationship developed and we became close friends. He started the year with his mind wrapped heavily around his future. In the beginning, he figured he would most likely attend Northern Arizona University or head out of state without a certain idea of what he planned to study. He started to engulf himself in more challenging classes by taking AP courses for the first time, and invested heavily on SAT studying and testing. However, as someone new to writing for the school newspaper, he realized what he wanted to do in life.

Once his first piece was published, he realized that he had potential in journalism and in his writing. These were both other unique things about him that I realized early in the year. Aden is an extremely talented writer and early in our friendship he shared his poems, stories, and all sorts of amazing pieces with me. His writing contains lots of emotion and passion, and so I know that his work will take him far. Closer to the closure of the year, he decided that he would pursue his writing at Arizona State University in the Cronkite School of Journalism. 


This year, Schmiller saw more personal growth, as he feels as though he is becoming more like an adult. He owes a lot of that to getting a car and a job, which allowed him to get a taste of the adult working environment. Aden started working at Babbo Italian Eatery as a busser and dishwasher. He often works up to 9 hours, cleaning up after hundreds of customers under the pressure of a fast-pace job. Learning how to work in a fast and stressful environment also gave him a better ambition when it came to his academic work. 


“Beyond a full blown profession, I got one of the hardest jobs for someone my age,” Schmiller commented.


Aside from having to learn how to master being an employee, Aden encountered even more personal growth this school year. He states that he learned how to choose friends and manage relationships and the importance of working for yourself. After another breakup this school year, Aden learned that it is important to take time to work on himself.


“It is still important to have faith in things, but it [the breakup] taught me to have a lot of faith in yourself and to have faith in those who care about you,” Schmiller reflected. “But don’t let any disturbances stop you from being who you want to be.” 

Aden has a big heart for other people, and takes his relationships with them very seriously. When facing the breakup, he learned how to work for himself and for future relationships.


“It gave me a better grasp of how to work for myself and for someone else at the same time,” Schmiller said.


Another thing Aden noted about his learning experience of the year is that he stopped caring about what others thought of him. Even though at times he can be crude, he feels that he is not a bad person and enjoys helping people whenever he has the chance.


Looking back over the years, Aden notes that his personality changed significantly. In a bit of self reflection, Schmiller didn’t see how the negative side of his personality affected things around him until after his breakup.


“I realize that I was really impressing and hostile about a lot of things which I didn’t need to be, when I was supposed to be affectionate with them,” Schmiller said.


He is still sort of a stern person with a crude sense of humor, but he has also become nicer and more receptive to what life offers. He is a kinder person, less hostile, and better at taking care of relationships and himself. Since starting his job, he has also become a more generous person, while also being wise with the money he makes. He sees the good aspects of himself as more important than the negative ones, and wants to be remembered for them.


“I want to be remembered for the good things I do. That’s one thing I’ve been striving towards,” Schmiller says.


On a humorous side of things, Aden really loves shoes and clothes and sometimes struggles to hold back from purchasing in order to save money. He made sure to note that this is probably due to his bisexuality and contemporary college-kid lifestyle showing through. I have enjoyed seeing how Aden came out of his shell since freshman year, and I love his humorous take on life.


“I need to buy more shoes because they are so cute,” Schmiller stated enthusiastically. “I love cute outfits and I can’t stop myself from spending money on clothes.”

Thinking back, Schmiller has overcome lots of difficulty. From time to time, the things that life throws at us can be unfair, which is something Aden can attest to. After a difficult day this year, he went through a suicidal meltdown that almost led him to take his own life one night. 


“I am glad I got over that, but it’s crazy to notice how quickly the pressure can build up in your life. Life is not fair and easy, you have to learn how to overcome it,” Aden said.


I remember the time he went through very well. I will not go into detail about what happened that caused that was a dark time in his life, but I will mention that it took a significant amount of strength to get through it. That time in his life made me nervous, but because I had gotten to know him, I had faith in his ability to overcome.

Something that got him through his dark times were his relationships with others, specifically one in particular. At the beginning of the year, he met one of his best friends in Mr. Gabow’s spanish class. 


In class during the first week of school, he noticed an “insanely beautiful” girl sitting on the other end of the room. Throughout the whole first week, they kept making eye contact involuntarily, and couldn’t stop. At the end of the first week, Gabow closed class by playing a student favorite, El Fin de Semana, on piano to commemorate week one. As they were about to leave the classroom, Aden accidentally made eye contact, smiled to stop from laughing, and found himself very embarrassed. That day, he was wearing a Fleetwood Mac t-shirt, in which the girl stopped to compliment it. As they left the classroom, they began talking about music and about how she liked the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. After the brief encounter, a strong bond was formed that still lasts today. Aden revealed that they talk a lot, and have good times, but have also fought and argued through bad times. Regardless, they have stuck by one another as best friends throughout the year. 


“It’s crazy how you can meet someone so important to you in such a goofy way. I’m glad that it happened,” Schmiller said.


Aden plans to take on full responsibility for his senior year and preparation for college. In reflection, high school isn’t at all what he assumed it would be like.


“High school is not the TV show, dreamy environment they make it out to be,” Schmiller said. “It’s crazy, chaotic, and bad things are bound to happen. You really just need to work your hardest to figure yourself out. You are destined for greatness once you do.”


Aden knows that you cannot simply just be a survivor, but you must live your life. Find your potential and don’t let it go to waste, fight through the hard times and enjoy the good, and always get back up when you fall.


“You are a guaranteed winner if you keep trying and keep pushing forward,” Schmiller said.

As a final note, I wanted to ask Aden what he thought was the most important thing about him. He answered that one thing he wants most in life is for everyone to find a happy ending. I couldn’t agree more with his answer. Aden wants the best for all people, good and bad alike. He believes that people should take responsibility for their actions, but sees a happy ending as a way for people to clear up faults. One thing that Aden wants to do is help people find happiness and clean up any issues along the way, which he sees as something he may have the opportunity for as a journalist.


What I admire most about Aden is how he is able to go through adversity and come out a changed and more developed person. Aden is a learner, a giver, and a friend even in the most difficult of times. His philosophy on life is a guaranteed success and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes him.


“Keep fighting, even if you get knocked down, you must be a warrior,” Schmiller says. “In the end, when life gets you down, keep getting back up. You will be the one to win the game of life.”