By Shruti Sagar ’18
A couple weeks ago, we had our final peer group meeting, and hidden in between a few different side conversations, I heard one of my peer groupies quietly ask how bad junior year really is. I started to talk to him about junior year a bit, and eventually all the side conversations died down and the whole group started to listen. I crave order more than anyone else I know, so I couldn’t just explain junior year without giving them my perspective on the rest of high school. I did just that—I sat down for around twenty minutes and took eight freshmen through my high school experience. I let myself be extremely vulnerable, which is probably why I remember none of what I said, except for what I said about senior year. I told them that above everything else, senior year is the year you realize things.
I think high school is one of the strangest concepts in the world. You enter as a scrawny but bright-eyed fourteen-year-old and you graduate as an adult, and the amount of experiences, opportunities, memories, and failures that happen in between those two milestones are so much more concentrated than those that people have prior to life before their first day of high school. Movies and TV shows paint high school as some sort of a quintessential coming-of-age experience full of drama, locker decorations, football games, and boring classes. The problem with that depiction is that a typical high school experience doesn’t actually exist. These fictional adaptations often forget to include the long nights where you can hardly keep your eyes open, the moments that you think are going to break you, or the unexplainable weight that comes from carrying constant stress. In other words, stereotypes of the high school experience often forget about the hardships because it makes the experience sound less frightening and more enticing, but I have realized that it is out of difficult times that a person grows, and how a person handles hardship says more about their character than any big win, good grade, or prom date ever could.
Pingry can be the worst sometimes. The rigorous environment we create for each other results in so many of these hardships in the first place because so many of us think that we need to be on top in every sense of the word—that we need to create that nonexistent “high school experience” for ourselves. For me, the college process was such a slap in the face because it made me realize how much is out of our control and that “normal” truly does not exist. So many Pingry students, myself included, push ourselves to beyond our maximum because we believe that every failure or success we experience is our responsibility, when in reality, it’s all just a part of life.
I mean it when I say that I’m nothing but grateful I didn’t get into the college I applied to early. Sure, it meant months of waiting, agonizing, and hoping, but more than all that, it made me step back, look at the bigger picture, and recognize that if being deferred from an incredible school was something to cry about, then my life is nothing but a blessing. It made me realize that when all is said and done, when I’m going through the motions of my freshman year of college, I’m not going to remember the statistics of the schools I applied to or the results I got from each, but rather the people who stood by my side—the ones who listened to me for hours and the ones that I listened to for hours. I became close this year with incredible people for several reasons, and a big one was because I didn’t get into college. I learned to check in on others, to put situations into perspective, and most importantly, to recognize that my life isn’t supposed to be a movie. We’re going to mess up, or life is going to mess us up, but it is how we emerge from these situations, and more importantly, how we support our peers and help others stay afloat that speaks to the way we carry ourselves.
Now that I’ve ended a paragraph I started with “Pingry can be the worst,” I think it’s only fair I address how this school has shaped my character and influenced me for the better. In the first few lines of Jack Garratt’s song “Surprise Yourself,” he sings: “Speak and open up your mind/It’s something you should do all the time/Keep exploring, seek and find/You know you might surprise yourself.” I promised myself I would try not to be tacky, but here I am quoting song lyrics, so I think I’ll just keep going with that theme.
Like I said before, I openly think high school is the weirdest concept ever, and I will never understand it. I always tell people that I don’t necessarily think high school is the place I am meant to “thrive,” but at the same time, I’m incredibly grateful for Pingry and all the opportunities and experiences that came with it. I’ll miss it so much because of the little things. I’ll miss the fact that I’ve slept in a tent on Pingry’s campus multiple times, that teachers want to have genuine conversations about things that actually matter and don’t discount your opinion, and that I can walk anywhere in the school at any time and find someone who wants to have a conversation. I’ll miss the field hockey team, peer leadership, and my IRT group—all groups of people brought together by common interests yet bonded together by so much more than just an extracurricular.
I encourage any underclassmen reading this to think about the lyrics I quoted above. The little things that make me love Pingry so much became such big parts of my life, but that wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t learn to approach conversations with an open mind, get to know as many people as I can, and most importantly, listen to what other people have to say. I’ve realized that by doing so, I have, in fact, surprised myself—and I know this because, again, senior year is the year you realize things.