With college applications submitted, seniors around the country, and especially at Paly, rejoice. The pressure to ace every test and paper to impress colleges is finally over, and many seniors begin counting down the days until graduation.
But with the nearing of graduation comes the pressure to savor every moment until that fateful day. From peers and the media, seniors are pressured to leave school with zero regrets, spend hours with friends they might never see again, and go to concerts or the beach on school nights instead of studying.
It’s finally time to have the “typical” high school experience — the fun, social dramatization shoved down teenage throats with every teen movie released — that I anticipated and was “too busy studying” to have before. And I only have one semester to make my dreams come true, to have something to show for high school besides perfect grades.
But as I’ve watched others slip into traditional senioritis and experienced senior year for myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that those who are happiest follow their own desired paths, not the paths they are supposed to or expected to take, and it’s OK, even necessary, to let go of unrealistic expectations.
The idea that second semester senior year — even high school in general — must be a certain way is damaging and divisive.
Instead of chasing unachievable expectations, seniors should spend their extra time this semester doing what they feel is right for their well-being — whether that be spending time with friends or watching reality TV by themselves.
Though freeing, this semester is also stressful because I, like many other seniors, am trying to figure out what my future will look like — where I’ll spend the next four years of my life — and everyone seems to have an opinion about which college I should attend and how to prepare for this endeavor.
As I anxiously await college decisions, it’s hard to believe they don’t contain my self-worth when I’ve built my whole high school identity around getting perfect grades and balancing extracurriculars as a foundation for my future.
Furthermore, at Paly, senioritis seems more severe and pressurized than other schools because it’s the only time throughout high school when Paly seniors — previously in a rat race to the most prestigious colleges — are allowed to let go of their overachiever mindsets. We’re finally allowed to have fun and prioritize experiences over accomplishments and awards, but some of us don’t know how to do that.
For me, the expectation that I should let loose makes me want to disprove it as the high-pressure environment of Paly has trained me to do.
Even though I’m burnt out, I’m desperately fighting the stereotype that second semester seniors are lazy and indifferent by clinging to one of the only constants in my life throughout the last four years — the familiar, stressful rhythm of completing assignments and studying for tests.
Though perfect grades no longer directly determine my future, they are the only tangible thing I have control over.
I’ve also been spending more time by myself over the past month. I’m now desperate to avoid uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing conversations about my future and instead enjoy reading a book, watching junky television and writing poetry to express my complex feelings.
Though this time is an opportunity to goof off with friends, it’s also an opportunity to reconnect and spend time with yourself as I’ve chosen to do.
Spending time doing what makes me happy will help me make an informed decision about my future that reflects what I want out of the next four years, not what I’m expected to want.
Whatever your semester may look like, know that you’re not alone and your feelings and fears are valid. Forget the movies and expectations.
Doing what makes you happy and benefits your mental and physical health this semester is much more important than completing a senior year bucket list.