As the school year approaches the end, I realize that my four years are nearly behind me. Looking back at my years of slacking off as a freshman, learning to manage my time as a sophomore, cramming for APs as a junior, and applying for colleges as a senior, I realize how I have spent the happiest days of my life here (so far). Coming into high school was a huge step for me: classes were bigger, students were different, teachers taught the material quicker, and being the class clown was no longer considered “cool.” Essentially, everything that I had loved to do—slack off and mess around with friends—was no longer accepted as the norm, since people were now focusing more of their time on studying, which came as a surprise to me. Rather than the traditional “all-day hangouts” with my friends, I progressively began to spend more and more of my days inside studying or doing extracurriculars in the Ideas Center and Princeton Tiger Tech to boost my resume.If I could give any advice to the freshmen and sophomores reading this, I would advise against taking a class for the sole purpose of “impressing colleges.” Instead, take classes that actually interest you if you strive to excel in that subject—because it could further your interest in pursuing business, law, maybe even engineering! After taking a class like AP World History, which had an abundant amount of information that unfortunately didn’t interest me, I learned from my mistake and enrolled in classes like Java that would substantially encourage my personal interest in computer engineering. Now, looking back at my classes, teachers, and extracurriculars, I am appreciative of the priceless lessons they have taught me, their role in directing my college decisions, and how they made my time at PHS forever memorable. From the silly HSPA testing, to stressful SATs, and ultimately to the post-AP parties, I regret almost nothing. —Tim Soo
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
–JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
When I walked into high school, there were so many new opportunities; it was overwhelming. People gave me the impression that high school was the only time to explore before life truly “started.” So naturally, when the club fair came along, I moved from table to table, signing up for everything that interested me. After freshman year, I narrowed down the activities to which I wanted to commit, but I still remained pretty busy.
I lost myself a little, scrambling from meeting to meeting, staying long after school to work on projects, frantically studying for exams … I felt as though I didn’t have enough time to maintain my friendships. I rarely saw anyone outside of the groups I was involved in.
While some say high school is full of regrets, I think otherwise. Interestingly, despite all the stress, despite growing distant from some friends, I don’t regret being busy all the time. As I was introduced to new activities, my interests expanded. I picked up new skills I never would have learned if I hadn’t been busy all the time, from time management to using InDesign. Most important of all was building new relationships, becoming friends with people I never would have expected to become friends with, and rekindling old friendships.
So I realize, I didn’t really get lost, and if there is anything I still regret, I know I can’t really have regrets because something good, and better, came from these challenges.
I learned that it’s okay to “wander,” to immerse myself in activities that interested me in order to explore the possibilities. I learned that as a wanderer, I must look forward, only looking back to remember my mistakes. And I learned that so much more can be learned from being a wanderer with courage and optimism than from being lost with fear.
When I leave high school, there will be endless opportunities, so many more choices, millions of paths. But in the midst of everything around me, I will maintain the essence of a wanderer, seeing the world not as an intimidating place full of unknowns where I can easily lose my way but rather as a terrain full of hidden wonders that are waiting to be found. —Evi Wu
My eyesight is pretty terrible. Whenever my sister would spot a deer on a family drive, everyone, except me, looked and appreciated the creature’s beauty. I would frantically search for a brown smudge amidst a fuzzy field of green, to little avail. My perspective always depended on what my family saw and described for me. It proceded this way until I entered high school and got glasses. With glasses, I had the opportunity to create my own reality. I could distinguish the world apart from what my family had taught me. High school marked the time to discover my values, my beliefs, my identity independent from my family.
During high school I saw friend groups changing, interests shifting, and morals being questioned. It was definitely a shock hearing about friends drinking and partying hard, but throughout high school, what defined my own journey was refusing to compromise my morals. At first my ethical extremism made me judgmental. I followed my conscience, but I inadvertently offended people by giving off a “morally superior” air. Friends felt judged and condemned by me, and I felt absolutely terrible about it. My judgments conflicted with what I value most: compassion. After realizing that my attitude was hurting my friends, I made a conscious effort to change. I tried, and still try, to treat everyone with respect, regardless of whether or not I respect their actions. Everyone has their own moral compass; it isn’t my duty, or my right, to impose my own morals upon others.
My parents always stressed what was right and wrong. Having such a strong moral code ingrained in me made me think that following that code was the most important thing ever. That was my perspective as a freshman at PHS. Now as a senior, I understand that it is problematic to view life in such a limited way. I’ve always wanted to be the best person I could be, and I thought being a good person meant never doing “bad” things. Looking back on my time at PHS, I’ve decided being a good person isn’t as much about not doing the “bad things,” but about doing the good things. Just putting in a little extra effort, smiling at someone you don’t know very well, showing kindness to someone who has hurt you, show strength of character. You don’t have to be perfect—people just want to see that you are trying. —Alana Chmiel