This story was originally published in the 2016 compilation, “Here’s to You” written by Mr. Scott’s senior Contemporary Chicago Writers Class.
Soon, it will be time to embark on our next adventure. Regardless, whether it is current, in a few years, or even at some distant 25 year reunion, we will always cherish our time together in high school, no matter where life takes us. High school is a time when you’re old enough to know better but young enough to do it anyway. All throughout high school the same advice is echoed by well-intended adults, “Enjoy it while it lasts”, “Time flies”, and “Before you know it, it will be over.” “Be sure to get involved.” Quickly, and with little fanfare, these suggestions become trite.
Upon entering high school, you think that you have it all figured out. You’re nervous but excited. Nervous for the school work, excited about making new friends; nervous about teachers, excited about new found freedom. So much to do, so little time.
As freshman year begins you’re so amazed how big the school is and you can’t find your way from English class to P.E. You dress your best every day because you think everybody is going to remember that J. Crew vest and those J Brand jeans you wore on that one Monday in December, right? You try your best, studying all night but at times can only muster up a C+. You fail your first test in Math and thoughts creep through your brain that you may not get into college. The first rumor is spread about you which causes you to learn who your true friends really are. You blush as you walk by an upper classmen as if they are paying attention to you. You race to Biology to avoid a tardy. You lose sleep over every party you’re not invited to and may even attend your first party and get offered your first beer. So many firsts to experience.
As you continue to grow and change—both physically and emotionally—you struggle. Sometimes you feel hopeless, like you’re fighting a battle that has never been fought before. You go through phases of feeling sorry for yourself for getting a tardy even though it was your own fault you snoozed your alarm. You feel like the world is against you because nothing seems to be going your way and some days you feel pretty insecure and vulnerable. You don’t believe you’re beautiful because you’re too busy comparing yourself to the prettiest girl you know. You’re too short, your hair isn’t the right color, and you don’t have a thigh gap. But in a matter of seconds your heart becomes full and your stomach fills with butterflies because your crush calls you pretty, probably in a text to someone else that you weren’t supposed to read. Too often, you over-analyze and worry way too much about something that never even ends up happening. Something you fail to realize is the amount of family, friends, and teachers who care so much for you. You’re too busy cramming for your quiz the next day and wasting time on social media to notice the amount of love that surrounds you.
We often get tricked into thinking we have so much time. Four years sounds like a lot, but before you know it, you are a senior in the fall. You wonder where those last three years went, but you can’t wait to be the queen of the school and make a year full of memories. The front row at football games, senior breakfasts, standing at the senior trash can, the annual Talent Show—it’s senior year, your year to thrive, to exhale, and to finally get that coveted seat in the commons.
The new question asked daily is, “Where are you going to college?” This question causes anxiety because you haven’t started applying yet and don’t know if you want to go far away to the Northeast or California, or stay close. You worry because you don’t know if you’ll get into the school you like. Soon, you’ll worry that on college t-shirt day, your college won’t meet the status quo of your peers.
Homecoming is not a big deal anymore and you’re perfectly content borrowing a dress and digging shoes out of your closet. You’ll show up late and end up leaving early, rushing to that ever-so-desired post party. But as you turn to glance back, just before you exit the Commons doors; it hits you that it is your last homecoming dance. You glance back at the full-faced, eager freshman doused in sweat from dancing–with nowhere to go until they get picked up by their moms at the end of the night. You become nostalgic and wonder where those years went.
You’re finally able to cheer for your friends that you’ve grown up with playing on the Varsity football team under the lights. You walk to the concessions and run into parents who echo the same sentiments, “I can’t believe you’re a senior now? It feels like just yesterday when you were a freshman.” You run the speakers and lead the student section in cheers—encouraging nervous freshmen to be more vocal, the same way you were once encouraged by someone who seemed so old. In a flash, those ten Fridays have come and gone and you’re showing up to your last high school football game. Ever.
It’s senior night for me at the last match at West Campus and I look back and remember saying goodbye to the seniors last year like it was yesterday. I remember wishing it was me graduating because high school seemed to be such a drag. I wished away time instead of embracing the moment. Those worn wired fences that surrounded me soon became a sanctuary to let go of the pressures of the school day. I played my last match, savored my last serve, hoping for an ace. Soon it was time to attend my last tennis banquet and say goodbye to all of my teammates and friends I’ve struggled with, laughed with, and flourished with.
All of these “lasts” seem to be coming so quickly and things get pretty real. Pretty fast. You take a look at your friends and realize you’re not the same awkward 15 year-old girl you came here as. Never again will you walk down the hallways with your friends you’ve known since grade-school, with kids who you knew attended your first birthday party, shared your favorite field trip, sat next to in Advisory, knew you when you had braces, and gave you your first kiss. You begin to appreciate the little times you have with your friends, like blasting music out of the Jeep windows. You realize that you aged not in years but in your stories and experiences. But it’s not just your friends you’re leaving behind, you’re saying goodbye to your teachers, your neighbors, jumping off the beach pier on a warm July night, eating at egg harbor after sleepovers, eating home-cooked meals with your family and that feeling of your bed after a long day.
It’s not one person or one place that has shaped me; it’s a community of friends, teachers, neighbors and experiences, which molded me into the person I am today. I have been fortunate to develop some close relationships with select teachers whose knowledge and advice I truly respect and admire, but it is all the special people I have encountered throughout these four years I have to thank. Every word of encouragement, sweet sentiment and memory, I will cherish forever and keep close to my heart.
With all the pressure that comes with growing up in a privileged community and attending Lake Forest High School, my parents once asked my siblings and I, “Are you happy we raised you here?” and my brother quickly responded in assurance. I, however, thought about it. I needed to round out my experience to say how thankful I truly am. Now it means more to me.
Sure, you can poke fun saying we live in a bubble, but this bubble has taught me invaluable lessons in life and given me the opportunity to explore my interests and get involved with community service fifteen minutes north of my front door. My surroundings provided an environment that allowed me to feel safe to explore and discover myself, allowing me to grow academically and personally. I am deeply grateful to Lake Forest High School for helping me to become the person I am today. Ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow, full steam ahead.