I know right now that your priorities are in a fumble. For instance, I understand you are being forced to read this letter right now when there are an abundance of other productive things you could be doing. I’m a senior, in another CCR class reading a different letter. I know what you’re feeling.
Since freshman year, counselors and teachers stress the importance of excelling in high school, that “your performance in high school determines the rest of your life.” Well there’s some truth to that phrase and you’ve probably realized that despite the importance of “performance,” high school is only four years of your life. Yet, you are almost three-quarters of the way finished, you might feel pressured to find answers: where to apply to college, what to major in, and essentially, are any of those cliches about college applications actually true? For some of you, there are issues that are immensely relevant at this point in your life, and since thinking about your future doesn’t exactly pertain to you at this moment, perhaps what you’re actually concerned about is the present. Nonetheless, whatever it is, being sixteen/seventeen, you’re stressed out about something. And I’m assuming since you’ve been told that Junior year is your most important year, the majority of you are stressing about school.
I used to be bitter toward the “smartest” kids in class, you know them: the kids that don’t lift a finger and get an A in their class, the kids that don’t even try to brown-nose, yet somehow by the second week of school they’re the object of a teacher’s admiration. It just seemed unjust that I would study nights in advance for an AP Bio test, clenching my fists in anticipation as I waited for my grade to appear on Illuminate, praying for at least a C; knowing that my lab partner got an A by looking over the study guide twenty minutes before class. And as he held his head up high in a devilish smirk, mine sunk into a familiar wave of despair and self-loathing. Every test was a constant reminder of how I wasn’t gifted a beautiful mind, a perpetual mortification.
As teenagers, the majority of us self-loathe more than we check our phones. We’ve been taught by our parents, teachers, essentially all of our role models, that “there’s always someone who’s better out there,” “there’s always something better.” And I know these words are unequivocally true, and for the most part they’re intended to be words of endearment, yet these two phrases have haunted me throughout adolescence. Those words have provoked a horrifying dismay upon all of us — a perpetual habit of self-analyzation, never being satisfied with who you are. And at times this anxiety, this eternal frustration, is what distracts you from your potential, your strength; It’s why you become oblivious to your capability.
In sincere honesty, I loved to see those “smart” type of kids fail because this validated the fact that imperfection is real –that these kids were just as lost as I was. I want to reassure you that regardless of the way a person depicts themselves, or even the rumours you hear about their lives, there’s not a single sixteen-seventeen year old who has the universe figured out. So don’t be bitter at these kids like I was. Stop comparing yourself to every person in this school. We were all born into different lives for a reason. So do your best to not envy other people’s success, instead celebrate your accomplishments along the way and never stop achieving.
Yeah. There’s going to be some of you who will go to a UC and some of you who will go to a community college, and some of you will go to a trade school, or get a job instead of going to school. Just remember that titles do not represent who you are, and going to different colleges, or getting a higher GPA doesn’t make you smarter than anyone else. I know as a teenager it’s hard to not compare yourself to your friends, but we are all in different circumstances. So unfortunately, we don’t all share the same opportunities.
Regardless of your circumstances, I still firmly believe you should apply to as many colleges as you can, including your dream school. No matter how far-fetched it may seem, at least you won’t wonder what could have been. As for financial debt, there is the Dream Act, FASFA, and an abundance of scholarship opportunities. For extracurriculars, obviously, they make your transcript look good, but if they are getting in the way of your personal life, and making you miserable, don’t put yourself through that, no matter how badly your parents might want you to. Always put your own happiness first.
Well what if you don’t want to go to college? Contrary to belief, this isn’t as horrible as people make it out to be. Some people aren’t meant for college right now, it’s as simple as that. Many of my friends have gone into trade schools and have been remotely successful, so if you want to become a hair-stylist, a chef, or a makeup-artist, by all means, pursue what you love and don’t be discouraged by the perceptions of others.
To end this off, just as everyone has told you, Junior year is the most important year of high school. And I’m not lying to you. I was in your shoes a year ago, and I know how terrifying this realization is, but guess what? You’re gonna live through it, and by this time next year, you’ll be done stressing momentarily.
Always remember there is no student who meets the criteria for the ideal image of a perfect scholar, we all have our strengths and flaws. Embrace both.
Student Class of 2017
PS – Did you know that this letter was written by a journalism student at Tustin High? We have our own on-line magazine called “The Pitchfork” and a brand new digital zine that includes student art work and untold stories about students on campus.