For high school seniors across the country, the next two weeks will bring joy, uneasiness and disappointment. It seems that while we greatly anticipate this time, we also dread that these days will ever come. For my first “story” on a medium new for me (aptly named “Medium”), I have decided to take a few moments and share my opinion on this time.
For the past few years, we have been engulfed in the process we know as “college.” You name it—testing, essays, visits, extracurricular activities, tutors, studying, grades, transcripts, supplements—it seems that for all of our modern histories, we have been working towards this next step in our lives. And while yes, we may love our high school friends, cafeteria lunches and friendly faces in the halls, we all must move on at some point. This change involves hard work and perseverance.
The temperature drops and snow begins to fall, which brings a new winter and the annual holiday season. However, while many people across the country spend their weekends decorating their Christmas trees, lighting their Hanukkah menorahs and enjoying the warmth of friends and family, seniors spend their weekends writing. And writing. And waiting.
For a moment, it seems that we have been waiting our whole lives for that one email (or letter — does anyone even know what “snail mail” is anymore?). “Congratulations!” or “We regret to inform you….” For that split second, our lives are defined by those words. Countless hours lead up to this point. For the letters of the former kind, we celebrate. Friends congratulate us. “CONGRATS!!!!,” one writes on a Facebook wall. “I’m so proud of you!” For letters of the latter kind, we are shocked with defeat. With failure. It seems as though no matter how many times we tried for that SAT score, that grade in AP Calculus, that “perfect” essay, nothing matters. We appear paralyzed, unable to comprehend our fate. And while this is normal, it is important that we focus less on the decision and broaden our outlook.
It seems that throughout countless campus tours, information sessions and applications, we are told to express what makes us “unique” and “different.” Well, we are all unique. Let’s not allow letters neatly lined up on a transcript or two-digit numbers placed in boxes on the ACT’s website (which takes way too many clicks to find) to define who we are. We are defined by the friends we’ve made. The memories we’ve created. The journeys we’ve taken. And at this point, the journeys we will take. Wherever the journey takes us, there is nothing in your path to a rewarding higher education experience and fulfilling life down the road. Indeed, the journey is the destination.
So, yes. The time has come. But if we step back and reflect, tonight’s (or tomorrow’s, or the next day’s…) letter is only one decision out of many we will make in our lives, and others will make for us. Before you begin, take a moment to realize what you have done up to this point. You’ve put in all the work. And in the end, it will all work out. Think about it: You get to go to college! And you get to choose where you would like to go! Many others would do anything for the opportunities you have. Take a minute to acknowledge the amazing people in your life. Thank your friends, teachers and family— you wouldn’t be here without them.
So sit up straight. Let the air flow deep into your lungs. Give others the dignity and privacy they deserve. While it may seem like it, the note you are about to read is merely one picosecond in your quest for boundless potential and unlimited fulfillment in your life. And in the words of Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, sung during his monologue on Saturday Night Live:
Breathe. Savor it, own it.
Now open that letter.