Inner Demons: Confessions of a High School Senior
September 24, 2016 / Darren Chang
Senior year has continuously represented the pinnacle of secondary schooling. Semiotically, it means the closing of curtains combined with the opening of doors - a time close to freedom, away from parental authority.
But with it comes the nasty side (especially if your mantra is Ivy League or Ivy Tech).
Competitiveness isn’t pretty. A horde of students, mostly Asian, with pushy parents, vying to get into an Ivy League school (or equivalent) turns into a zero sum game - one where the goal is to guess where your classmate is applying early to (“earlying to”) and gauging his or her chances against your own. People have become incredibly secretive, revealing not a smidgen about their accomplishments, about their application, about their choices (and their parents’ choices) in an effort to game the system through becoming an enigma.
It’s easy to hate yourself during these times. I know I have, at multiple points. Questioned what I’d done in high school, if anything at all. What counts as meaningful, and why is it so? Although I’d tried to stick to a policy of doing something only because I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite work out like that. I did my fair share of “selling out” - fitting to the norm and the stereotype to appeal to admission committees. The idea is that life is an unfair struggle; you can’t always get what you want.
Two words that give a fair representation of my senior year are regret and turmoil. Two words with undeniably negative connotations, but also have underpinnings of self-actualization and improvement. Although I’ve known all along that I’m not infallible and subject to the same limitations and pettiness of other high-school students, and humans in general, I think I’ve only begun to realize who I was in high school. Perhaps I haven’t gotten the most out of the high school experience, but they say that hindsight is twenty twenty. Anyway, there isn’t much point in being able to predict everything if life is supposed to be an enigma.
At Carmel, we have to answer a long (~20 question) packet for our counselors so that they will write a recommendation. I suppose this is sensible at a school where each counselor has hundreds of children to counsel and barely meets with each one for ten minutes a year. Yet at the beginning of writing the packet, I wanted to shoot myself, but at the end, I’m actually quite satisfied, not only with my answers, but also with thinking about what I want for my life and what I want in college.
So before you start your common app essay (or whatever essay you need to submit), take a moment to take a walk and to think - about who you are, who you want to be, and how your identity is constructed. Talk to your parents, your best friends. Ask them what they think of you. These are questions that you may have already thought about (perhaps you even already know the answer to), but thinking about them might yield different answers. Then, start your essay, hopefully with a better understanding of yourself.
I recently took a walk under the stars and laid down on the grass and just thought. It was peaceful, and I was glad I took time alone to think about myself. I felt content in knowing who I was. And with that, began the search with who I am to become.
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