Hey future me—you’ve probably forgotten about your high school self, So let me refresh your memory on this peculiar stage of your life.
Your high school GPA, you remember this though, right? No, not the number itself, but how you were in a never-ending struggle to keep it from deteriorating alongside your mental health, which seemed second to everything. Your grades do matter, people said, but just not a few decades into your future. Sure, it was to prevent you from being consumed by the pressure from years of incessant external supervision, control, and judgment. But to me, it’s tragic whether they matter or not. Our chances of making a reasonable living are somehow related to answering barrages of questions that nobody needs us to answer at the moment, not even ourselves. To think that all the time we devoted to forcing our wills to fulfill expectations will be largely irrelevant later in our lives is no less upsetting.
Remember your SAT subject tests? You stressed over them, hoping that they would be less fierce than the AP exams, only for them to be canceled anyway. Even though you already had decent scores, each missed point seemed like another reason for rejection. You always recognized the supposed value of this process, but still had to constantly convince yourself of it as you faced your thoughts alone in quarantine.
Remember how you spent your winter break writing essays that your parents had to pay colleges to read? Watching 70 dollars vanish with each application nonetheless drained your soul. You detailed how you would fit perfectly into their diverse student bodies as you grimaced at rejection rates as high as the grades you sought in class. You overestimated your ability to craft a detailed narrative about who you were and spent precious time obsessing over essay topics. By the week of the deadline, you weren’t even able to judge the quality of your writing due to the sheer amount of time you spent staring it down. Counting down how many essays you had to write with your friends was the little solace during those dreary times.
No matter where you end up going, with a smile or a frown, don’t be too eager to leave the stressful memories of now behind. Although you made friends in unexpected places and had your fair share of laughs in high school, you can’t forget how taxing “learning” was on your curiosity, how your self-worth was delegated to percentages, or how often you felt disconnected from the present moment and the rest of the world. Who knows if you’ll be any more satisfied in the years to come, but don’t look back at me and call this period a necessary struggle. Don’t be dismissive of this moment. You will probably get results worthy of your efforts, but don’t tell yourself that it was because of your obstacles that you are where you are. When in actuality, it was despite them. You promised that you wouldn’t accept things as they were. “How naive,” you may be saying to me, but you better not make that an excuse. I’m watching you from here. Whatever you do, make now really matter.