In August 2019, I joined the crowd of other freshmen girls. With a smile on my face, I thought I knew it all.
But, in the three years since then, I have matured, evolved and most of all learned. So, with only one year of high school left, I share with you the lessons I wish I’d known as an underclassman.
Reflect on your goals.
When I entered high school, I was blinded by prestige. Every decision I made was dictated by what I thought a college application reader wanted to see. But as I tried to live my life by the Ivy League standard, I began to wonder, “what next?”
What were my goals after attending said universities? By whose standards would I live next?
I found that in my pursuit of a meaningful, happy life, I had fallen into a trap. And as I began to reflect on my decisions, I discovered that I would not find long-term happiness in chasing the next minor achievement. Instead, I would find meaning in incorporating my preexisting passions into my day-to-day life.
With this information in the forefront of my mind, I began to research, write and teach, pursuing and cultivating my passion for sociology.
Now, my experience might not be yours.
I cannot tell you what would bring you joy, nor can I tell you the perfect way to live your life. However, I can encourage you to try to discover it for yourself.
Before acting impulsively, take a moment to question your motivations. If after some thought, you still deem your decision right, then by all means, continue. I just find that in my experience, that moment of thought has made all the difference.
Explore your options.
Try out that new club that sparked your interest. Pick up that new sport you always wanted to play. Volunteer with that organization you’ve heard so much about. As underclassmen at a new school, the opportunities are endless.
Your first two years of high school, particularly your first, are really meant to be a time of exploration. They function much like a trial period, a time for you to discover what brings meaning into your life.
But, perhaps you are much like I was; you think you already know what you want to dedicate yourself to.
Well, I still encourage you to step outside that box you’ve created for yourself, for in my experience, it was the activities I least expected to enjoy that have stuck with me to my senior year.
Don’t be afraid to let something go.
If you listen to my first word of advice, you might find yourself in an activity that you do not enjoy.
For me, that activity was Mock Trial. After joining, I quickly realized that it was not the in-depth law analysis I previously thought it to be.
So, when re-registration rolled around, I found myself in a difficult position. Do I stick with it to fulfill some imaginary quota for the number of extracurriculars I must have, or do I drop it and pursue something that aligns more closely with my interests?
To those of you who find the answer obvious, I commend you. As hard as it is to admit, this decision was one I struggled to make. I feared that without Mock Trial, I would be deemed a quitter, a failure in the eyes of those around me. But, when I did eventually decide to quit, I found that no one cared.
As I prepare to apply to colleges, I do sometimes wish I had one more extracurricular, some final accomplishment to really wow the college admissions readers. And still, I realize that my mediocre performance as a mock trial witness would not be that.
And so, to you underclassmen, I encourage you to really pursue the activities that bring you joy and understand that dropping an extracurricular does not make you a failure. Instead, it provides you with a meaningful opportunity to dedicate yourself further to the ones you really love.
— By Simone DeBerry
Originally published in the Sept. 28 edition of The Octagon