New Beginnings

By Hanna Yamato

With senior year coming to an end, I am overwhelmed with so many emotions—sadness, excitement, happiness, and even a little nervousness. The LIFE Crew leaders who told me freshman year that “four years fly by,” really weren’t kidding. It is crazy to think that just in a couple months, that I am moving out of Los Gatos, California, my home for six years, to an entirely dissimilar city: Boston, Massachusetts.

To be completely honest, in the process of writing this senior reflection, I was so tempted to cast these past four years as a bad experience. Reflecting on my journey throughout high school is not only awkward, but also weirdly saddening. I look back at my past self and all the negative and embarrassing happenings, such as failing tests, falling asleep multiple times in dark classrooms, messing up choreography onstage during the Nutcracker, getting almost half of my high school experience taken away by a pandemic, and so much more. But by reflecting on all of these experiences, I have learned that one of the most important things in life is to pull meaning out of them, and say to yourself: without these experiences, I would not be who I am today.

The first time I stepped foot onto Westmont campus was August of 2017. Just fresh out of middle school, I was a naive and eager student who thought that high school was going to be a breeze. Spoiler alert!!! I was completely wrong. If only I could go back in time and warn my 14-year-old self that these next four years would be the worst and best years of my life. I remember being late to class during the first week of school because I constantly got lost. I remember not knowing what I wanted to pursue in college. And I even remember hating to dance in small groups because I was so self-conscious.

Sophomore and junior years were a whole different breed compared to freshman year. As someone who managed to keep up with assignments and stay motivated, it really hit me hard when my workload suddenly increased with AP and honors classes. I gradually got less and less sleep, and developed a love (more like a need) for caffeine. I even began to loathe the endless cycle of getting up, going to school, then dance, and coming home to do enormous amounts of homework. Although both years were difficult, I would not trade them for anything, since it taught me valuable lessons about myself and what I needed to prioritize.

Now as a senior, I am a little wiser, and a little more confident with myself. I have gradually learned how to come out of my restricted mindset, find time to relax, and pursue things that bring me joy. The various obstacles I have faced throughout high school have taught me to value the little things in life, because tomorrow is never guaranteed. I now embrace new challenges, instead of avoiding them and being afraid. Although it is an ongoing process, I am slowly overcoming my self-doubt, and learning to not care about what people think, because it truly does not matter. I also know that coming to terms with your struggles, and letting go of your past takes time, and is a gradual process.

With my senior year not being the traditional year filled with rallies, football games, homecoming, last nutcracker performances, and other privileges, I do feel that I missed out on a huge part of the “high school experience”—but in return, I got to spend a lot of time with my family. Especially with online school, this year was definitely more laid back than others, giving me time for my college applications and figuring out what I want to do in college. As I plan to move across the country to attend college on the east coast, I look to pursue a degree in neuroscience and possibly continue dance, but judging from the past four years, this may be bound to change. However, I do know this: without struggle, there is no progress, and I would not be who I am today without my four irreplaceable years at Westmont.