Senior year self-discovery

Finding meaning in high school now that it’s ending

Emily Sweet

On the first day of freshman year, I decided high school wasn’t going to be the “best years of my life.”

After almost seven full semesters at Redwood, I can safely say that I stand by that statement. I’ve made lasting friendships and have generally fond memories, but I’ve grown a little tired of the incredibly inconvenient false fire alarms, lackluster rallies and debate about how to deal with the parking situation (news flash, it can’t just be “dealt with”). But it’s not just Redwood I’m tired of—it’s the entire idea of education. I’ve been working my butt off for three and a half years, and now that my future is pretty much out of my hands, what’s the point?

This is precisely the problem I’ve recognized within myself. I’m a motivated student! My entire life—dare I say—I’ve actually enjoyed school. I like being in a classroom, I like learning. But through my education I’ve strongly believed that the ultimate goal is to work hard for most of high school until your plans for the future are not up to you anymore. Whether this takes the shape of applying to college or making decisions about working or taking a gap year, for me, it has always been that once you get to that point, you’ve succeeded. Because of this, now I’ve reached a point where I can’t seem to find the motivation to continue working hard in any of my classes, many of which I’m taking to fulfill requirements.

What I’ve realized is that school is so much more than an end goal. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2018 there were 56.6 million children in primary and secondary schools around the United States. For many of those kids throughout elementary and secondary school, the majority of classes are predetermined. Even as a senior, Redwood’s graduation requirements dictate a portion of my schedule. As I get closer to leaving next year, the cost of my time and effort going into classes that are of little interest to me has become a strain on the diminishing time I have to spend with my family and friends. It is not the fact we have graduation requirements that is upsetting to me; I trust there is value in the courses Redwood requires students to take. It is the idea that I’ve allowed myself to feel like it is okay to give up.

Understanding yourself in the context of school is not something I often take time to reflect on. There is no one cookie cutter way to get the most out of school and how to experience it. However, it is worth it to spend a little bit of time reflecting. With 56.6 million children enrolled, there will be 56.6 million paths through education.

For me, it has been a harrowing journey with far too much math, but in a rather mature realization, I’ve begun to comprehend that learning itself has no ultimate goal. I’ve spent my entire high school life focused on my personal end goal of college rather than the privilege of learning, and I regret that. Looking back, Redwood has provided me with a world-class education and I feel very appreciative to have that foundation moving forward. But I really wish I hadn’t waited until senior year to realize that.

There are certain things about high school that I hate and can’t change. The hallways are annoyingly crowded at almost all times, the building is vaguely reminiscent of San Quentin and I would rather get a root canal than walk to the portables in the rain again. But with my last semester, I plan to immerse myself in my classes while I can, because this may be one of the last points in my life where my main focus is to educate myself, which is a luxury.

So yes, high school hasn’t been the best years of my life. But it’s been a time of self-exploration and building a strong foundation for my future, and that is worth the ever-present smell of JUUL smoke.