I was going deep into my old files on my computer. I found an essay I wrote my senior year of high school. I didn’t write a college essay. I didn’t apply to any schools that required one. People have accused me of doing this out of laziness, or being an underachiever, I think this essay sheds an light on something that took me a decade to rediscover.
I wrote this for my senior English class. It was the third “senior essay” I wrote. My teacher kept handing the previous essays back to me, telling me, “you wrote this because I told you to, not because you had something to say. Try again. Try something else.” It was a frustrating back and forth. I remember handing him this version and telling him, “I don’t care if you don’t like this one. This is it. I am not writing something else.”
I remember that incredibly frustrating experience so vividly. I remembered nothing about the essay itself. As I read the essay for the first time since I handed it in, I found myself sitting up straight, holding my breath, energized and paralyzed all at the same time.
I wanted to hug teenage me and I found myself shaking my head at adult me. How did I know this about myself at 17, and then forget it all, only to have to relearn it at 27 (and continue to relearn it as I approach 30)?!
Yeah, I eventually did move away from family. I miss the exact things I worried I would miss. Choices are still a major theme in my life. I “failed”. More than once. I fell flat on my face. I royally screwed up my plans. Yeah, I still make plans and lists.
I want to sit down and have a coffee with you and explain why this essay, this stupid teenagery essay, the essay I begrudgingly wrote, the essay I promptly forgot about, blew my adult mind. I suppose, if you know the dark and twisty and beautiful parts of my soul, if you know the story of my less than ideal choices (really just the one), my bumpy road to rediscovering myself, then maybe you know and we don’t need to have a coffee.
You see, I didn’t realize I had lost myself. Really. Until I started to find myself again, I didn’t realize I was wandering. But the thing is, I knew myself and I knew my biggest fears when I was just some “angsty naive teenager.” Somehow I lost sight of that. Reading this essay felt a lot like ripping all the bandages off a healing wound. Exposed. Vulnerable. Scary. But then you look at it. And you realize it healed.
So I am ripping off the bandages. Exposing myself. Admitting my fear. Showing you a decade-plus old school assignment that I didn’t want to complete and I didn’t bother to remember.
For what seems like all of my life, choices have been a major theme. My bat mitzvah speech was on choices; my final papers for my freshman and sophomore English classes as well as my junior history class were about choices. I would expect that someone as “well versed” in choices as myself would feel comfortable making them. But even as the Rabbi gave his sermon on Rosh Hashanah this year I found myself cringing merely at the word itself.
I am scared of making the “wrong” choice. I never have been good at making decisions. It’s not so much that I am indecisive, I just avoid big decisions. There is something in the finality of big decisions that seems to be more responsibility than I wish to take on. So making a choice when it comes to college is terrifying me. The idea that I will go through my next four years of school with one plan, and that it may in fact turn out to be different than where I want my life to go once I reach that point, is a scary thought. A situation such as that would leave me facing more choices, and as I previously stated, decisions are something I would rather avoid.
There are multiple factors that I would consider as constituting the “wrong” choice. I want to be a teacher, but I really like physiology. My mom is a teacher, I teach ballet to five-year-olds, I tutor second graders, and I help teach Sunday school. I am confidant in the fact that I would make a good teacher and that I would love doing it. Nevertheless, I also am completely fascinated with the human body. It is one of the most amazing creations on this earth. I enjoy fixing injuries and absorbing all the information I can about the way that the body works. But say I major in education and I wish I had gone the other route, or vice versa. Sure, I can change majors, go back to school, do whatever it takes, but I view that as a failure. I believe in making a decision and sticking with it.
Another factor would be the school itself. What if I hate the campus? The people? The distance, or lack of, from home? So I come home, go to PCC or Mt. Sac, and transfer to a school that is better suited for me. I would love so much the opportunity to get away from home, especially out of state, across the country even. Yet I am not applying to a single out of state school. I am a family gal. The thought that I would not be able to attend High Holy Day services at my shul, or help the Sunday school students decorate the sukkah on Sukkot makes me homesick. My little cousin just started high school, and who knows what milestones in his life I would miss being away at school. My brother and dad’s birthdays, Thanksgiving with the entire family, and the countless “just because” dinners with the cousins, and New Years parties that wake the neighbors. I would not be me if it were not for occasions such as those. Yet still I am yearning to spread my wings. All these thoughts, contradictions, and dilemmas have played over and over in my head since about spring of junior year. I feel like I am on a seesaw, and depending which way it is tilted on November 30th will be what decides my future.
In the past when I have had to make choices such as which high school to attend, to quit drums or not, etc, I have always relied on lists that I have made. In eighth grade I made a list. I mapped out all four years of high school. This list included what classes I was going to take and what extra-curricular activities I was going to participate in as well as the grade I was going to get in each class. It also had listed which year I was going to accomplish what, such as: in my junior year I was going to receive my Gold Award, or by my senior year I would be playing in the pep-band. I even had a subsection of the list that included what colleges I was going to apply to. Needless to say, the path I chose for myself as a thirteen-year-old is far different than the choices I have made as a seventeen-year-old.
Similarly, the path I choose now will likely be different from the choices I make in my future. This does not make the decision any less daunting, but it does however, relieve some of the pressure that was building up as a result of it. I have come to the realization that I have to take opportunities as they unfold. If I had not done this in highschool, I would have never become a member of the Orchesis Dance Company. It was never a part of my plan to at any point quit band, or become more involved in dance in anyway. However, one night on a whim I went to the tryout meeting and began the process. The day the list went up and I saw my name on it, my first reactions was “okay, so I guess I am in Orchesis now, this is different.” Becoming part of the company drastically changed the course of high school for me. It changed my friends, my extra curricular activities, and my self image. All for the better. Planning my life in advance is ludicrous. Things change and people grow, and I have to make decisions one at a time, as they present themselves. Not try to figure it all out in one day, one essay, or one application.