The “picture perfect” high school experience


Originally published on June 2, 2015

When I was young, I always watched cliche high school movies like Bring It On and High School Musical, in which the main characters discovered their true identities in high school and lived the rest of their lives appreciative of their high school experiences. Because of those movies, my biggest goal going into high school was to find myself the way these characters did. Now, as a graduating senior, I have looked back to ask myself whether I have indeed found my voice and completed the “picture perfect” high school experience.

I started off high school really just wanting to make social connections. My freshman year mentality stemmed from what I learned in the movies — to do well in high school, one must become socially well-known. The movies taught me that one way to achieve social success was cheerleading, so I tried out for the cheerleading team in my freshman year, and wound up making the cut.

But going into junior year, I realized that I wanted to do more in high school than just cheerleading. This was partly because it seemed that my fellow classmates only ever asked me about my cheerleading life, never really considering that conversations with me could run deeper than that. I realized that I did not want others to remember me as just a socialite, and I had an unsatisfactory feeling that I was not doing everything that I wanted to do in high school. And so, I soon moved away from the mentality that cheerleading was the key to high school success by leaving the team and turning my focus to academics.

The movies taught me that one way to achieve social success was cheerleading, so I tried out for the cheerleading team in my freshman year.

There are two thousand six hundred and seventy-one academically driven, deeply opinionated, and high-achieving students at Lowell High School, and I am one of them. This atmosphere of geniuses has been both scary and thrilling to me over the course of my high school experience.

Leaving cheer and joining journalism and debate for my last two years of high school has really opened my eyes to just how special Lowell is, particularly because I had the chance to meet and learn from people who knew how to connect their education to the real world. In debate, my fellow parliamentary debaters taught be about ISIS, gerrymandering, and Edward Snowden, allowing me to win three out of my four rounds in a particular tournament. Similarly, in journalism, my fellow reporters’ passion for writing inspired me to write about topics that interest me, such as how the colloquial phrase “on fleek” became a phenomenon.

Within the hallowed classrooms, I encountered remarkable teachers such as Mr. Tuason and Ms. Dean, who, with their energy and devotion to their students’ success, not only ignited a passion within me for history and psychology, but also taught me how enriching education can be. With brilliant peers and caring teachers by my side, I realized that Lowell is a place where students have their own thoughts and opinions, like notes and chords of a larger ensemble — and I am so glad that I had the chance to play my own solo within it.

Thinking back to my original goal going into high school, I now realize just how misguided I was.

Thinking back to my original goal going into high school, I now realize just how misguided I was. My “picture perfect” high school experience could never have come true, because perfection is never really achieved, and problems never cease to exist. And yet, I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else but Lowell. Despite the stress, despite the pressure, and despite the competition, Lowell has taught me that sometimes balance is more important than perfection.

In the beginning of my high school career, Lowell instilled within me a need for success that went beyond even my previous ideas about the “picture perfect” high school experience. But now I see that high school is a journey, during which we can — and maybe even should — make mistakes, and in which we are able to pick ourselves back up despite our setbacks.

So, with this, I want to leave my beloved fellow classmates with a few words: As we say our goodbyes and begin yet another new chapter, remember that just as there is no “perfect high school experience,” neither is there a “perfect life.” All we can really do is to use what we have learned in high school by pushing aside our imperfections and taking a long, appreciative glance of what we have in front of us — journeys to take and lives to live.