By VAYNE ONG, freshman
EVERY FIRST day of school, a mob of confused freshmen spill into the hallways of JP Stevens. This year, I had the privilege of being one of them. Despite the countless “don’t worry’s,” “calm down’s,” and other ineffective attempts at comfort, I couldn’t help but spend the previous night doing the exact opposite. I fretted over every last detail: my route around the school (including detours and emergency exits, of course), who would be willing to sit at my lunch table, how I would greet people I haven’t seen since June, what excuses I would have for not contacting certain people since then — the list was endless. Adding to my anxiety was the long list of TV shows, movies, songs, and other elements of popular culture surrounding tumultuous high school experiences coupled with years and years of hearing stories, all regarding the horrors of this dungeon-like institution called “high school.” Now, halfway through my freshman year, I realize that I might have been a bit too nervous about high school — it’s not as terrible as I had been warned. Yet although I have half a year of experience behind me, I still don’t know what to expect in the days to come.
The transition from middle school to high school was surprisingly easy, actually. I bid farewell to making four daily trips to my locker by the second week of school and adapted to my nonexistent sleep schedule by the third. However, I was only able to handle these relatively smaller changes with ease; I am still terrified by the prospect of major changes, which I have found that, now in high school, I am constantly surrounded by. The affairs of upperclassmen foreshadow what I might experience over the next few years, and though they are only two, maybe three years older than me, the difference between my life and theirs is monumental. Many of them voted in the election of 2012, drive themselves to school every day, and are eligible for their own Costco memberships. Meanwhile, I’m just now getting used to seeing PG-13 movies without my mother. Three years may seem a long while away, but the day will soon come when I will be in their position and have to assume more adult responsibilities. It’s not that I don’t eventually want to be released into the “real world” and “Be the Change”; it’s just that it’s arriving much sooner than I had imagined. Adulthood is looming overhead, and with every day of freshman year that goes by, I am dragged slightly closer toward it.
Although I’m still adjusting, it only took half a year to get acquainted with JP’s new culture — one rich with academic, athletic, and creative achievements. Living in such an environment, it wasn’t long before I, too, was dragged into this competitive, yet friendly atmosphere. On any given night, a student could be pulling an all-nighter, finishing the umpteenth draft of an English essay and trying to describe protein synthesis without lashing out in frustration, while another could be placing first in the nation at a notoriously challenging academic competition. This is just a part of JP culture, one that I have grown to actually appreciate. More rigorous academic and extracurricular demands are to be expected, but the standards set by the school and my own peers are occasionally daunting. The standards set by others raise those I have setfor myself; whether or not I like dealing with them now, I am substantially more motivated to conquer (but still equally apprehensive about) three and a half more years of group projects and pop quizzes.
With half a year behind me, the anxiety of becoming a freshman has faded, replaced by the nervousness I feel as a high school student. Perhaps it’s much too early to worry about the workload and the wealth of responsibility that lie ahead — but what I do and where my priorities lie have already begun to count toward my future. I am not the person I was last year. But can someone who’s still in the midst of convincing herself she can reach 5’3” by the end of the year truly be ready for this steeper trek towards the future? I hope so.