A Reflection on Four Years of High School
So the task at hand is to write a culminating piece chronicling my high school experience. And though it was just a mere four years, it was during those years when I transformed from a callow middle schooler to a more seasoned adult, ready to be ejected into the crazy world outside of this small town and the comfort and familiarity that comes with it.
I entered high school trying to find myself and leaving it, I still feel a bit lost, but also appeased because I learned that my identity isn’t really anywhere to be found–it’s up to me to create. High school has brought me innumerable experiences and memories, all of which I cannot possibly touch on. So for this piece, I am going to focus on my constant struggle to find equilibrium between breadth and depth with regards to both friendships and academics.
Going into ninth grade, I was told that I’d find my niche somewhere along the way. I never did. I drifted from group to group, but never stayed in one place for long. I never felt like I truly belonged somewhere. I kept this up throughout my four years at CHS, vowing to myself to get to know as many people as possible. This way, I gained a plethora of new perspectives, but with this breadth came lack of depth. I befriended people from all different slices of the school, no matter what grade, group or interest. This allowed me to become acquaintances with hundreds of different people and experience all different types of friendships.
My propensity to constantly be interested in new people and passions made my life extremely susceptible to change. I tried my best to steer clear of drama and drifted around while everyone else seemed to have a set group of friends. Like this, I gave up the opportunity to form deeper, more lasting relationships. I seemed to be spending each weekend with a different set of people. I conformed to how they acted, creating different facades of myself without really understanding who I was. I felt like I became an enigma to myself, hard to define. I’ve had episodes where I was obsessed with art, EDM concerts, sports, schoolwork, parties, playing music, being a “nerd,” being “cool,” hanging out with older kids or constantly breaking my curfew. I seemed to change as my friends came and went.
Looking back, I wouldn’t regret it. Branching out to many different people has helped me grow out of my shell, and I’m very comfortable approaching new people now. However, I learned that people’s paths intersect, but they also almost always diverge. I realized that I needed to devote more of my time looking inward and improving myself and less time trying to maintain a large network of acquaintances.
So starting senior year, I started to focus less energy on ephemeral relationships and more on self-discovery. I spent a lot more time in my own mind: writing 60,000 words worth of college essay drafts helped me differentiate myself from others. I am now more comfortable and aware of who I am, and I am genuinely happy about who I’ve become. I am so much more secure about my identity, and this has led me to become much more confident and steadfast.
However, I do wish I had spent less time preoccupied with what other people did and what they thought of me. Less time idealizing others. Less time preoccupied with always going out and documenting a good night online for my entire network of 2,000 Facebook friends to see. It would have been nice to go through high school without having the influence of social media weigh so heavily on me. It enforced shallow, intangible notions of popularity and evoked a omnipresent fear of missing out. I spent way too much time trying to think of how to portray myself on online profiles and impress everyone when I could have used the time for anything else more productive.
In the classroom, I let a formula define my life: get good grades, do extracurriculars, get into a reputable college. I’ve always held this belief that if I can, then I must. I enrolled in a wide breadth of advanced courses, which sort of forced me to be good at every subject, but unable to allocate the time to delve deeper into one or two subject areas. I love to learn for the sake of learning, but most of my high school classes weren’t able to satisfy this need–I was subject to surface-level learning, teaching to standardized tests, formulaic assignments, memorization and regurgitation. I was immersed in a culture where students plea for grade bumps and resort to cheating in order to improve grades. My passion for knowledge and education was not ignited, but rather extinguished and dulled. I found myself oftentimes more exhausted than enlightened.
I overworked myself at times, spending countless lunch periods working in the library or rushing to and from meetings for extracurricular commitments. There were few times I could actually spend time eating lunch with my friends.
Although breadth of experience helped me learn and equipped me with a variety of different skills, if I could redo one aspect of high school, I would have done less and done deeper. With regards to extracurriculars, I participated in everything from politics to fencing, lab research to debate. Frankly, much of what I did, I did with the prospect of college admissions in mind. Something I truly am passionate about is music, but I never gave myself a real chance to explore music in school.
It’s not to say that I never do what I like or never have fun, because I do. But, sometimes I wish I had relaxed a bit more and spent more times learning things I was truly interested in and partaking in activities more for the sake of my own interests than for the sake of my resume.
Rather than joining every honor society and club available, and pursuing disparate, unrelated paths, it may have been better had I focused on just a few things that appealed to me. I should have realized that it was okay to not take every opportunity that presented itself and instead spent more time with friends and family, more time playing music and more time taking care of myself. This is one mistake I won’t make in college next year. I’ll just call these past four years a time for “exploration.”
High school…I’m going to miss it. Less than I initially thought I would but more than I’d like to. I can’t complain. I worked hard, learned a lot, but was still able to maintain a solid balance between my grades, sleep, work and fun. Looking back now, I’m impressed that I emerged unscathed. I was able to make up for all the hard work through countless adventures with my friends: from night hikes to cliff diving, slow dances to stargazing and first football games to last dances at prom. It’s been a wild ride.
Despite the negatives, I got everything I wanted and expected to get from high school, and it has undoubtedly built me a sound foundation off of which I will be able to accomplish something meaningful with my life down the road.
As I head off to college, I look at my younger sister and other incoming freshmen and become excited for them to embark on this four-year journey.
If I had to leave one piece of advice to her and the rest of the CHS Class of 2020, I would repeat what my friend, now a sophomore in college, told me over breakfast one day: nothing is as bad as it seems. Be confident: talk to that new kid in your English class, create that club you want to see make change in the community and run for a student government position if you’d like. Nothing’s stopping you but yourself.
You don’t have to maintain a high A in every class nor should you live solely for your resume. Tests and college applications aren’t as bad as you think they are. Go out, meet new people and don’t confine yourself to just one group or one label. Don’t let stress overcome you. Take a deep breath, because everything will be okay. The future has a lot in store for you.