Four years of (mostly) firsts

For me, as it was for most people, high school was filled with a variety of firsts. I had my first kiss, a sloppy and awkward amalgamation of lips and saliva that I couldn’t wait to tell my friends all about.

I went to my first party and giggled nervously every time I made eye contact with anyone and clutched my friend’s arm the whole night for fear of looking out of place.

I received my first F on a test and immediately ran into a bathroom before bursting into tears, not accepting the reality that I would earn a diversity of grades ranging from a hundred to the forties before graduating.

I had my first real fight with my parents, one that didn’t end with me slinking off to my room with my meek voice trailing behind me.

I was ditched for the first time by friends who bought tickets with me for a New Trier basketball game then decided at the last minute they didn’t want to go with me anymore.

I received my first rejection from my dream university and sat in my bed staring at my computer screen hurt and in shock with tears welling in my eyes.

It’s difficult for me to put into words how much or why I’ve changed since my first day of freshman year, but I guess the point is that all of these firsts served a large, rather critical role in shaping me into the person I am today.

For the past four years, I’ve stumbled with my peers along a road of mistakes, successes, regrets, and wishes and begun to embrace the discomfort of new experiences.

I used to be so convinced that I knew who I wanted to be, but in reality I was desperately forcing myself to fulfill an expectation I had created for myself. I wanted to fit in perfectly and be an always agreeable, outwardly social, remarkably vanilla, dutiful student. I was terrified of showing insecurity or vulnerability and fought to resolve any parts of me that didn’t fit.
I was scared of voicing controversial opinions confidently in class discussions for fear I would be judged by my classmates. I refused to stand up for myself to friends I knew were treating me poorly because I didn’t want to risk being alone on the weekends.

I did everything conceivable to avoid or conceal failure and rejection of any kind.

But as I experienced more firsts and emerged from them relatively unscathed, I began to realize that hiding behind this false persona forever was impossible. Not only was it impossible, it was wrong. As outstandingly cheesy as it sounds, I began to inch towards truth and discomfort.

I sat at a table in front of the four varsity tennis coaches and the other three captains on my team and explained through heaving sobs why I felt my teammates and I had been wronged at the past weekend’s tournament.

I recognized their expressions of mild disdain but I let them slide over me.

I committed to a university I far from loved, and decided that rather than linger on past failures, I would accept that I had given my all in the college process and anticipate all of the future opportunities I would undoubtedly reach out and grasp.

This isn’t to say that as I near the end of my time in high school, years dramatically different from Gabriella Montez’s perfect “High School Musical” experience, I have an unwavering understanding of myself. If anything, I have more questions of who I am, what I believe, and who I want to become.

But the difference from the first day of freshman year and the last day of senior year is that I’m beginning to welcome and seek out confusion and insecurity.

As I prepare to enter the next chapter of my life, I can only wonder what questions I’ll be confronted with and how those will prompt change in me as well.