By Victoria Gu

As an eighth grader at Pingry, my time management skills were particularly poor. I spent too much time procrastinating each afternoon, causing me to start my homework late at night. I have only myself to blame for these habits, but the consequences were rough. I had to fight to keep myself awake in class, as if dragging myself through some sort of syrupy, incoherent blur. I spent my flexes and any free time catching up on sleep. I think that’s where I developed the reputation that won me the superlative “most likely to fall asleep in class.” I’m glad my peers were generally accepting of this unusual behavior, but I felt out of place. I had friends from some classes, but I did not feel a part of any group of people; rather, I felt like an individual who happened to be in the same grade as others.

In the spring of that year, I met with Ms. Leffler, who had been both my science teacher and advisor for two years. I remember our conversation very well, especially that she seemed genuinely concerned about my sleep schedule and social life. I think it was at that point that I realized I needed to change myself. We talked about how high school would be different—I would have more work, but also more free time. I would have a conference period every day, but also join and invest more time into clubs and other school activities. She mentioned how I’d likely find more people with which I could resonate in that new environment.

What Ms. Leffler said came true, albeit not immediately. At the start of my freshman year, instead of sleeping between classes, I became overly focused on secluding myself to finish work during flexes and conference periods. At least I was sleeping more at home and less tired during the day. I think I started feeling I was a part of the Class of 2020 a bit later in that year. I got better at balancing my time; while I found time to talk to friends, I was still able to acknowledge when I needed to work on something urgent.

What truly made me feel a part of this class, however, extends beyond that. From old classmates asking how I was doing to 8:10 AM calls from students concerned I’d miss class, these little but not insignificant moments made me feel at home in Pingry. While our classes grew more rigorous, I was comforted by the collective support of my fellow classmates. I specifically remember throwing around possible essay ideas with Mr. Shilts and a few other students after class one afternoon. Hearing everyone else’s thoughts let me come up with the rather daring idea of proving that two canonically unlinked characters were the same person. Though I liked the concept, I wasn’t sure it would work, but the enthusiasm I received from everyone in the room convinced me to try. This, and many other moments from outside of class,  helped to connect us. Though we struggled with schoolwork, balancing after-school activities, and finally our college applications and results this year, our celebrations and sympathies for each other made these endeavors more bearable. I’m sincerely grateful for the empathy and warmth this class has shown these past few years, and I hope that I’ll find something similar as I transition into yet another new environment next year.