I Guess This is One Last Time Around

Lynne Bekdash ‘16, Senior Columnist

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Ah, to be a second-semester senior and heading for college. Oh, to stand in the doorway; one footsteps eagerly past the threshold, one lags gingerly behind.

By the time senior year comes around—(and it will come around, inevitably, slowly and yet so suddenly, like rain)—you will hardly even have the time to stop and think about how quickly the past three years went by. You, too, will ardently barrel forward, trying desperately to finish your college applications and to spend time with the people who for the past four, or seven, or thirteen years you have struggled, laughed, and simply lived beside.

Senior year is weird. When my mom asked me (jokingly) if I wanted a balloon for my eighteenth birthday, I very enthusiastically (not jokingly) pointed at the kiddie balloon with cows on it. But at the same time, when I see cars whoosh by me on the highway now, I don’t see them out of the backseat window, but in my side view mirrors. The disparity between the half of me that wants to remain a child and the half of me that wants to act the full-fledged adult is comical. That’s senior year.

Senior year is bittersweet. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by nostalgia, like when I walk into Mr. Ortega’s room and smell photo chemicals or when I overhear freshmen complain about The Odyssey. The more weeks that go by, the more it dawns on me that, “Wow. I’m not going to see a lot of these people ever again, am I?” So yeah, it’s bittersweet. A little scary, even, but I think that’s a good sign. They just cleared and updated the matriculation board, and for the first time in all four years of high school, I recognize every single name up there, because it’s us. The Class of 2016 is up there. We just handed in diploma forms. We just got our 100-day goodie bags. One of my teachers has officially branded me a Bad Influence on Juniors. It feels so real now. That’s senior year.

Senior year is high stress. It’s high stress mostly because of college-related grievances. But about college, know this: everyone is rooting for you. We are all in your corner. And you’re on everybody else’s side, too. You will sob when your best friend gets into her ED school. You will rant with an acquaintance over how no one got into MIT again. And it doesn’t matter how selfish you think you are, it doesn’t matter how badly you want to get into your dream school; even when you’re rooting for yourself above all others, you’ll still hope like crazy that your classmates who want it just as badly get in, too, because you’ve been struggling and romping through the last twelve or so years with them and man, do you hope it ends well. You will wish the best for everyone. Your friends will be so sweet and supportive, your teachers so excited and proud of you, and your counselors indispensable, understanding. That’s senior year.

Senior year is also low stress, though. When you reach second-semester, you will feel like you’ve earned it, and that’s because you have. You can now sleep earlier at the expense of some studying and not feel guilty or worried about it. There’s no crippling anxiety about grades (at least I hope not!), so you can relax a little more. You can do a lot of things, actually, like read more books for pleasure and go out more and—(even though I already said it)—sleep more. If you ever feel on the cusp of death for the first seven semesters of high school, just keep telling yourself to hold out until second-semester senior year. I know I did.

Everything you’ve heard about senior year is true; it’s by far the most fun you will ever have in high school. It feels like the school belongs to you and your class now. Spirit Week will be a blast.

A lot of people are going to come to you as a senior for advice. “Which classes should I take next year?” they’ll ask. “Do you think it’s okay to quit this club?” “How do I tell them I just want some space?” “Is this a good enough thesis?” I especially like it when underclassmen come to me for advice because it makes me feel Wise and Worldly.

I’ve given a lot of advice over the years, but there’s some that is just more important than others, some I think every kid who ever goes through Ridge should know.

1) Experiment like crazy. It’s the world’s oldest yet least-listened-to piece of advice: “Try new things.” Do it. Satisfy as many of your curiosities as possible, so that when time comes that every time you go the dentist’s office the small talk consists of “So, what do you want to study in college?” you have an answer you can get behind, whether that answer is “Engineering!” or “Political science!” or “I’m undecided!” Some people are lucky and just know. The rest of us need to be exposed to a little more before we can confidently make a decision like that, and the best way for that to happen is to actively expose yourself to more.

I am not technical or particularly math-savvy, but I interned at an IT company last summer, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I joined Ridge Productions because I’d always been fascinated with filmmaking, and now I get to actually see and participate in some filming. Even if you think something isn’t for you, sometimes it pays to just give it a chance.

2) In order for #1 to be possible, you need free time. I know you’re busy, I know you have plans and you’re keeling over from the weight of three tests and a presentation tomorrow, but sometimes you just need to forcibly remind yourself, “Hey, some me time would be nice right now.”

Senior Srinivas Mandyam ‘16, an avid advocate of the You Need To Free Your Own Time doctrine, explains: “I’ve seen some underclassmen feel guilty about just having free time. Workaholics get stuck in old thought patterns, they burn out, and they can fall into a sort of lifestyle that makes high school feel like a blur of tests and deadlines.” And wouldn’t it be a shame if four years of your life, in retrospect, looks more like a blur than anything else?

3) Enjoy every second that you can with the people you love and care about; next year you might be hundreds of miles away from them. Now that I’ve gotten to the second semester of senior year and most of the crazy has seemed to subside, I feel two overwhelming feelings: 1) excitement to leave, excitement for what’s to come, for what can be, and 2) a kind of sadness that I have to leave a lot of cool people I just won’t be able to spend time with in the same way. I got so caught up in school and college—especially junior year—that sometimes I neglected to just enjoy the simple pleasure, the small miracle of someone’s presence beside me.

Senior Clare Halsey ‘16 shares this sentiment, describing how “when junior year ended, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders, but a year later, I have a chillingly different feeling. With less than one hundred days till graduation, my main focus is to enjoy the time I have left with the most wonderful teachers, peers, and family members.”

4) Always take the shot, no matter how stupid you think you’ll look or how sure you are you’ll fail. Yes, try for that reach school, try for that award, ask that person out, apply for that internship. I am reminding you that trying never hurts, that at its skeletal level, life is a series of decisions, and regrets aren’t about losing this desirable thing or doing that embarrassing thing. They’re about not giving yourself a chance. Inaction is often the root of the worst regrets, and it never feels like a decision while you’re doing it, but it is. Inaction is one of the most passive and self-damaging decisions possible, because years later, it will be so hard for you to explain it to yourself, and you’ll kick yourself over it.

5) If you want to eat on Wednesday, you’d better run for those chicken fingers.

Happy hunting, Ridge, and thanks for everything.

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