Emily Chang Senior Reflection
I had a page on my notes app from freshman year with the sage lessons I had picked up at the ripe age of 14, ready for the day when I could put them onto paper for my senior reflection. Spoiler alert, none of them held true. As it turns out, you cannot do a proper senior reflection until you’ve actually made it to your senior year of high school.
Freshman year I was uptight, competitive and so academically-oriented my body physically cringes looking back on those memories. (This is my official apology to everyone I took AP Bio with. I promise I have changed.) Something twisted in my psyche made it my only goal to get accepted into college; everything else was just collateral damage. Yet, here I am, college acceptances secured, and I don’t feel any different. The anxiety that had plagued my high school years did not suddenly lift at the sight of the words “Congratulations!” on an email (Vanderbilt 2025, baby!). The moments that I lost to cynicism, claiming that rallies and football games don’t go on your transcript, are gone permanently. No amount of regret can ever get that back. You can’t live life wishing the time away. You can’t set your sights on a singular goal and think “I will never be happy until this is achieved,” because, quite frankly, that is simply untrue. The second you reach one goal you are simply thrown back right where you started in search of some other metric to achieve. You have to find ways to seek joy in every season of your life.
With that depressing soliloquy (did I use that word right, Ms. Frame?) out of the way, I promise high school was not all angsty regret. I was able to take classes I loved with teachers I love (here’s to you, Mrs. Rojas!), learn how to be a less-terrible debater and discover my unhealthy addiction to iced coffee and rap music when attempting to pull all-nighters (the latest I could go was 4am). Though a senior year in quarantine for the most part was a downer, it did offer an opportunity to really reflect on what I wanted my life to look like. I was able to rekindle friendships and fully visualize who I wanted to be before starting college. All the spare time I had to think also helped me filter out some of the greatest takeaways from my time at West Ranch.
I learned that it is ok to ask for help and rely, even if just a little, on the people around you. Life isn’t supposed to be some “every woman for herself” competition like I once perceived it to be. You are not any weaker or less independent by seeking help from the people in your life.
I learned that the things that seem utterly life-or-death now, probably won’t matter in ten years. (AKA: getting a D on that AP World quiz probably wasn’t worth crying in front of the whole class over!)
I learned that no matter what emotions you may be feeling, there is no better cure than blasting Taylor Swift in the car with the windows down, screaming about the heartbreak and betrayal you’ve never personally experienced. (“Clean” and “Better Than Revenge” are top notch choices!) Bonus points if you’re on your way to Ben and Jerry’s.
Most importantly, though, especially to all the gals reading this, I learned that success is not a zero sum game. In the world we live in, it can sometimes feel like the success of another woman means there is less opportunity for you to succeed, like there is only enough room at the head of the table for one of us. If there is anything that high school has taught me, it is that this is simply untrue. You will be so much happier and have much healthier relationships with the people around you if you start viewing life as one big collaborative journey instead of a fast paced race to the finish line. When women work together, we can make room at the head of the table for all of us, instead of feeling like we need to climb the mountain alone.
And with that, it looks like my high school journey has come to a close. Are there things I regret? Sure. Will there be things that I miss? Definitely. But the potential of the future and everything that is waiting for me outside the bubble of SCV is calling, and I know that this is only the beginning.