By: Gwen Pearson
When you glance out a car’s side mirrors, they read, “Objects are Closer Than They Appear” in small print. This is to warn the driver that she is not far from what she has just passed. There could not be a better metaphor for high school, as my time almost concludes. I believe the hardest thing about high school is the inability to be present. As I glance back at these past four years, perhaps the hardest thing I attempted, and failed at several times, was being in the moment. It’s easy to wish for the year to be over, especially as a senior, or to want to grow up. We become so consumed with these thoughts that we forget what will happen when we reach them. What will happen when we graduate high school? Most of us will go to college, then get a job and start a family. We won’t see our brothers and sisters every day, or our parents or our dog. I feel like sometimes we try to rush the inevitable and avoid the reality of what we are wishing for.
I’m not saying I have savored every moment of high school. Not in the slightest. The seemingly miles-long walk from the parking lot to the school on freezing mornings is like a death march. Or when I show up to class and completely forget about the test we had that day, when everyone else knew about it. Or forgetting to submit my SAT scores to colleges and then finding myself in guidance in an anxious, frustrated heap. There are times when I have wanted to be anywhere else but here. Times when I don’t think high school is the most valuable way to spend my youth. I mean, if you think about it, this is the youngest and, arguably, healthiest we will ever be and we spend eighteen years, twenty-two if you attend college, sitting in a classroom. It can be tempting to walk out, to want to travel and explore and do stupid things. And I think we have that right as a teenager. But we need to spend time learning in a classroom so we have the tools to do this stuff. We need to know geography to travel, history to explore, and we need to know what good decisions are according to health class, so we can do the opposite. All of these things wouldn’t be possible, or as enjoyable, if we got to do them all the time. We need a reality to come back to. It’s like in the summer, the weekends aren’t as anticipated as they are during the school year because every day is like a weekend.
So, as I look back upon my high school years, I feel surprisingly nostalgic. It’s strange, rather, foreign to think that I will never attend a high school football game as a student ever again. Or have another pep rally, or spirit week. Another homecoming dance or airband. I’ve gotten so comfortable here, so sure of what’s to come next. For years, I’ve been wishing for senior year, grasping to become as confident and assured as the upperclassmen. Now I know they weren’t really confident at all. They were just as stressed, messy, and scared as I am. And as everyone after me will be, too. Although I am slightly terrified of what’s to come, I still have a semester left. A semester to soak in the rest of high school, of seeing my best friends every day and hugging my dog when I get home from school. It’s sad to think it’s almost over, but also liberating. I’ll finally have some freedom over my life, of what I want to do and where I want to go. And along the way, I’ll remember to always glance in the rearview mirror but keep my focus on what’s ahead of me.