May 23, 2019
Live your life chaotically
Everyone goes through different phases throughout high school. The rebellious phase towards your parents, and the sad phase in the middle of November anxiously waiting for Christmas break are only two out of the many.
The phase that is never-ending, though, is the part of your life that craves and searches for self-identification. Many say that being yourself is the easiest part about growing up; but, a disclaimer, it’s not. Self-identification is one of the hardest things about growing up in a chaotic teenage world.
For me personally, it was hard to find myself. I spent my sophomore and some of my junior year acting like someone I was not. Now that I have found myself, I have accepted all of my quirks and weird tendencies because that’s who I am. And I do not care.
There have been times when I have gone out to parties in my pajamas, because it’s 10:30 and I’m tired. I could give a crap about what I wear; I don’t dress to impress. I only dress for my comfort.
And, I swear constantly. In front of my teachers. In front of my parents. In front of coaches. At my teammates. I do this because I’m passionate.
I want people to succeed in anything that they do. When I swear about something or at a situation, it’s not meant for harm- well, sometimes at least- because the most harmless thing about me is my passion for others.
There have been a lot of people that have asked and continue to ask me, “You really don’t care do you?” “Why are you doing that?” “Are you just asking for attention?”
People can’t seem to understand the beauty of being yourself.
The things that I value the most make up my core. I vouch to make sure that my family, friends, and whomever enjoy my presence just as much as I enjoy theirs.
I always complete my homework in a specific order so I can get it done as efficiently and quickly as I can.
I write down all of the important things that I have to do on a new sticky note as each week passes. I can’t go to sleep until everything is picked up in my room.
I care about the biggest and most important decisions in my life, my smallest obsessions, and all of the memories in between. It’s what makes us human. It is what makes us all so incredibly unique.
Diving into something new
I always thought that I’d swim in college, but then I decided not to.
My decision to not continue my swimming career wasn’t because I had stopped loving the sport, it was because I had begun to love it in a different way.
I loved my high school swim season more than anything: the comradery of the team, the memories made, and the healthy competition between my teammates made me extremely happy, but it wasn’t enough for me to continue.
So, knowing that it was my last season, I wanted to embrace every aspect of the sport and all those “last times.”
I walked onto the State Meet deck, feeling the butterflies in my stomach as the realization hit me that this was the last time I was ever going to be competing for the sport I’ve spent countless hours training for.
It was the last time, after spending the majority of my weekends at swim meets, every night of the week in the pool for at least two hours, and waking up at 5 a.m. to get into the freezing cold pool.
The end of the state meet was an indescribable experience, not just because we won the championship, but because I finally felt completely accomplished and content with the fact that this phase of my life was over.
All these last times made me more grateful for learning that being a leader means not only being strong, but being vulnerable, and allowing others to open up to you.
These last times made me grateful for learning how to be confident as a swimmer, but also to be confident outside of the pool.
These last times made me grateful for learning how to work hard to achieve your goals.
These last times made me grateful for the friendships that I have made with people that I might not have met if it hadn’t been for swimming.
And these last times taught me that swimming doesn’t define me and I am so much more than just a State Champion swimmer.
Opening your eyes to new, exciting experiences
At the beginning of high school, I quickly realized that things were going to change, but being someone who doesn’t adjust to it very well, I was forced to be open-minded and let life find its way for me.
My friends were on the swim team and I was on the golf team. Two completely different sports, which meant two completely different schedules.
Friday night football games weren’t the same, because my friends were all at practice. I started reaching out and opening up to other people so that I wouldn’t miss out on making memories because I knew if I didn’t I would regret it.
I had to allow myself to not be so timid and be more independent, which was hard for me. But, I’m so glad I didn’t let being afraid of sending a simple text to someone hold me back from enjoying different experiences.
To some people it might sound stupid because deep down it’s not that hard to branch out and it’s a completely natural thing to do have to do in life, but my best friends were the people I did absolutely everything with. In the least weird way of saying it, we have certain roles as friends with each other and it’s just easy because we know how it works.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from all this it to not overthink reaching out to old friends or saying hello to someone new in the hallway because you truly never know where life will lead you and it’s important to be open to it all.
The friendships I’ve made over the past four years outside of my close friend group are just as important to me as those are and I will continue to cherish every single one of them as I begin to make new friends in the fall.
A new me
For me, swimming has been something I have always done. Since I was six years old on the Orchard Hills Swim Team, swimming has defined me. Despite my love for the sport, I was never a difference maker on my team.
Ending middle school, I struggled to enjoy swimming. While my friends were setting records and qualifying for states, I could not figure out the point of still swimming. They were setting lofty goals for themselves for the high school team, already looking for scholarships and a spot in the top lane. Going into high school, I feared that I would remain in this shadow and not be able to enjoy the sport I once loved. I could not have been more wrong.
I walked into my first two-a-day practice not knowing how much this team would change my life. In spending countless hours a day with 60 of my best friends, I quickly found my place on the team. I learned that goals and expectations need to be specific to you. I learned to work hard. Most importantly, I learned to appreciate swimming once again and feel proud of my accomplishments, not crave someone else’s. I learned to be proud of breaking one minute in my 100 freestyle and getting put in lane seven.
Reflecting on the past four years on the high school team, I now realize how important this time was for me. I cultivated lifelong relationships with my coaches and teammates and learned my place as a leader for the team. This experience taught me that each person has their own role and goals in a group. I am ready to set new goals for myself, whatever they may be.
“Are you wearing Birkenstocks with Smartwool socks?” a snarky upperclassman girl asked me in third hour World History. Red in the face, I admitted to the eighth sin: diverging from what was East’s idea of fashion sense my freshman fall.
Three years later, I sport this iconic combination proudly. Not only because this trend-setting style has merged with what has become mainstream, but because I have become increasingly comfortable with myself as I have found my niche.
High school is a time for growth — academically, socially and mentally. I’ve been lucky to have had influential summers away from East where I realized my passion for telling other people’s stories, but the culmination of my experiences has occurred within these poorly-lit halls. This is where I have found people who share my affinity for over-analyzing “Lost” episodes, obsessing over obscure facts found in our psychology textbook and laughing over the repetitive usage of the same “modismo” throughout two semesters of Señora’s AP class.
In Lab 212, where my minimal InDesign capabilities are praised, I have been able to work alongside a team of amazing young journalists who create a more impressive product every month.
Every golf season, academic course and extracurricular passion has shaped me and helped me embrace myself over the past four years.
Full send it: Making the most of your time in high school
Twelve years of school later, one wacky senior year, and I have made it. My last year of high school has honestly plucked me right out of everything comfortable and forced me to take ownership of my future. I have grown more in my senior year of high school that I ever expected and have been a part of enriching classes that have helped me better understand the world around me — most notably, Mr. Szpieg’s analog photography course.
I remember one class we spent discussing how many of us live in a perpetual state of numbness — and it left me really rattled. A lot of us, (me included) have gone numb; we wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again. We are so scared of failing or hurting or feeling anything too deeply. But if I can, I hope to impress on you the most valuable lesson I have learned in high school: your dreams are not going to fall into your lap by playing it safe. Great and otherwise unforeseen opportunities come from taking risks. Stop overthinking, stop trying to please everyone else, stop degrading your aspirations. Embrace risks and allow yourself to overcome a fear of failure. Let your wanderlust carry you and don’t ever exchange your heart for one so unfamiliar that it forgets how to beat.
I have learnt that we are often defiant towards vulnerability and authenticity because stepping outside of a state of perpetual numbness forces us to confront our unhealthy coping mechanisms. For me, shooting film forced me to slow down and work deliberately; challenging the frenzy of life with introspection woke me up. I began searching for the humanity wrapped inside of every moment, and everything for me began to shift.
So, instead of asking yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you feel awake. And then do that. Because the world needs people who have come alive. We would be stupid not to live as fully and courageously as we can.
You always get out what you put in
The night I arrived at The Island School, while we were discussing the semester ahead of us, a teacher said: “It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be worth it. You will get out what you put in.”
These words not only applied to my Island School experience, but have resonated throughout my senior year and will continue to, I think, for as long as I live.
Looking back, high school certainly had its ups and downs. Nonetheless, I am so grateful for each challenge I faced and each mistake I made because through all of my experiences — good, bad, easy, and hard — I have learned. And I have grown.
Whether it was running cross country freshman year, weathering Honors Physics as a weaker math student, or finding my people as I bounced between friend groups, the experiences that impacted me the most were the ones that brought me outside of my comfort zone.
Overall, they helped me learn to choose courage over comfort. And that, I believe, is my biggest high school achievement. Life is sculpted by the decisions we make; when we put in courage and embrace those scary, vulnerable moments, we get out impact — and I think that’s really everyone’s goal, to be positively impacted by an experience and to make a positive impact on others.
So, when looking back on these past four years of high school, I can only describe them as impactful. I decided to choose courage over comfort, and what I got out was an incredible experience filled with connection, empowerment, and love. In 2015, I walked into EGRHS more quiet, hesitant, and insecure; in 2019, while I am still the same Nora, I am walking out more bold, resilient, and self-defined.
High school was not perfect. But, indeed, it was so worth it.