By Olivia Merrick
From the very first day of my freshman year, I made a promise to myself: to work as diligently as possible throughout my junior year, so that when my senior year arrived, I could devote my time to making incredible memories. Although I have had plenty of opportunities to make magical moments for myself during my senior year, they certainly were not the ones I originally had in mind. COVID-19 made many of my plans impossible, and my goal of spending my senior year doing whatever I wanted was immediately scrapped on March 13, 2020.
I, much like many high schoolers, spent my first three years of high school creating a resume that would make me undeniable when college counselors picked up my application. My life revolved around getting incredible grades, piling up activities, and taking a handful of classes and programs outside of school to make myself standout. I spent an unhealthy number of hours working to achieve my goal. It worked—I’ll be attending my top school with a generous merit scholarship—but looking back, there are things I would change if I had known what the last one-and-a-half years of high school held for me.
For starters, I wish I said “yes” more often. Not every single night needs to be used for studying and pushing yourself beyond your mental capability. It’s unrealistic, and it’s incredibly taxing to do for four years straight. I wish I would have taken a few nights off every month to hang out with my friends and to explore the corners of the Bay Area I likely won’t get to see before I leave the state for school.
I also wish I would’ve taken the time to do things I really enjoy: not just things I felt like I had to do. During the pandemic, I’ve been able to reignite my love of reading, something I haven’t let myself spend time on since my freshman year. I also realized my passion for writing, something I used to just put time into whenever I got a spare moment. It’s been these two things that have allowed me to grow most during this time, as I’ve been able to find myself through words. Had I not let myself enjoy things I love, I wouldn’t be as happy with myself as I am now.
Most importantly, if you take anything away from this article, let it be this: I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself. You cannot get an A on everything you ever turn in; it’s not possible no matter how much you wish it was. I wish I would’ve asked for help more often when I didn’t understand things, because, as cliche as it sounds, getting help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Rather than spending hours on work I didn’t understand and trying to get an A on it, I should have asked for help. And, if I had spent hours on something, I should have just accepted that I had worked as hard as I could, and that I didn’t deserve to overwork myself for a single grade.
All of these were things I realized while at home, reflecting on the two-and-a-half years of normal high school that I did get. In part, I’m glad I had the time and the opportunity to learn these things about myself because of the pandemic. I’m much happier with who I am now than with who I was when I deprived myself of freedom and of fun. So, if you’re like me, and prefer to lock yourself away and drown yourself in work, I ask that you go and do something for yourself within the next year(s) of your high school experience. Take a roadtrip with your friends to a part of California you’ve never seen, go to a party, or even just spend one night away from school. Trust me, your heart will thank you for it.