By Ethan Chung ’18
Throughout high school, I have often found myself struggling to find a balance between these two opposite tenets: “College is everything” and “Friendship is the most valuable thing in life.” I have sat through countless speeches delivered by my imperious grandmother, telling me to stop spending so much time with friends and start focusing on SATs. Alternatively, I’ve heard the opposite advice from my younger relatives to always make time for friends and never miss out on the opportunity to have fun. They’ve told me that I won’t even remember my struggles in Honors Physics, but I will remember the fun times as lasting memories.
I’ve spent so many restless hour-long bus rides to and from school making mental pros and cons lists on my imaginary yellow legal pad, debating which path to follow. Sometimes I lean towards the college-centered mentality because I’ll picture our class reunions and think that the only thing people will remember is your name and what college you went to. As seniors are about to graduate, we have to face the hard truth that we will be parting ways with so many of our friends. But just because we aren’t able to hold on to these relationships doesn’t mean that they weren’t vital to our high school experience or that these relationships are gone forever.
Finding the balance between college and friendship that was right for me took me nearly all of high school. And the best advice that I can offer underclassmen at this school is not what my combination was but rather that you should approach high school with a flexible mindset. I know that seems like a non-answer on par with Mr. Ross’s explanation for why Senior Prank Day is now illegal, but really the best attitude any Pingry high schooler can have is one that is curious and willing to accept change.
Don’t expect anything to be rigid and guaranteed. I used to be stuck in this awful mindset that if I participated in this activity or won this award, it would mean that I was guaranteed this other prize. I used to think college acceptance was a formula, and if I followed the steps, I would achieve my goal. But I realized that having that mindset is the absolute wrong way to approach life. Another terrible habit of mine was that I would judge people based solely on their accomplishments. Realize that you are more than a résumé!
However, at the same time, I’m not going to say that you underclassmen should feel bad about worrying about grades and extracurriculars. Instead, I will tell you that your classes and extracurriculars, for the most part, should be enjoyable. That same cliché career advice to do what you love is so applicable in terms of what you’re learning and what you’re doing outside of the classroom.
I was lucky enough to have found my passion for music before high school, and my love for music led me to so many wonderful opportunities to develop myself as a musician, travel overseas, and become friends with amazing people through concerts and orchestras. While I was exposed to a rich network of music-related opportunities and talented friends outside of school, in school, I noticed a clear lack of resources and interest for music.
I had to rely on myself and the few musically gifted Pingry students to help bring our interest in music to our school, which, to paraphrase from this year’s valedictorian, is just a bit heavily sports-centered. I have so many fond memories on the stage in Hauser. I’ll never forget playing “Let it Go” and “Smooth Criminal” in front of my peers, who returned the favor with so much enthusiasm and many cheers. I still remember playing on that stage for my benefit concert; I was so nervous until I saw how many of my amazing teachers and friends actually came to watch me play classical music on a school night.
My point is Pingry may not have everything that suits your interests, so you may have to rely on yourself to spread your influence to Pingry. There’s always a new club that could be introduced or a new program that you can help Pingry explore. Also, remember that this community of peers and teachers is comprised of some of your biggest fans and the closest friends you will ever have.
I know that Pingry isn’t perfect. The pierogi sometimes remain frozen, and the tofu is cooked in some highly questionable ways. And the administration can be frustrating too. But the incredible teachers and friends you meet make this experience unforgettable.