Senior Column — Becky Chen ’22


Becky Chen, Staff Writer

The parking lot of the 99 Cents Store on Duarte is where my mom told me that I was an accidental pregnancy

It was not the ideal place to receive such news, but throughout my time in high school, I received unpleasant news in many unique corners. 

I cried outside of the MPR when my Chinese teacher told me she wouldn’t raise my grade; opened my rejection letter from Harvard while at the Speech and Debate booth for Spring Preview; realized that I would be in South Korea on the day of my favorite band’s concert while I was sitting in J207. 

These moments only took up around 30 minutes out of the 1461 days I’ve been here. But even as an extremely small fraction of my high school experience, they seem to overshadow everything else. 

I could graduate, dwelling on these regrets of mine. Almost every day, especially as a senior, I wonder about the different, better possibilities my life could’ve unfolded into. Since middle school, when I was at the peak of my existential dread, I’ve always felt this pressure to live life to the fullest. 

So I sought to have as much fun as I could upon my entrance to high school. But upon reading the past senior columns and talking to alumni, I realize that this is unlike most experiences of the standard AHS student. 

The “standard” AHS senior reflection mentions regrets about not making time for friends, being consumed with studying and doing homework, and the overwhelming stress they felt from academics. While I can echo similar sentiments regarding mental health and maintaining grades, overall, I can’t relate at all.

Frankly speaking, I don’t think I spent more than an hour studying for any of my tests. Homework was almost always done in class, the period before it was due, or sometimes just not finished at all. Even when I knew I had a pile of homework one day, I would still go out for boba the same night. Even when I received a bad grade on a test, I would repeat the same studying routine—or the lack thereof—for the next. 

As a true “ENFP” Myers-Briggs personality type, I could only devote my time to activities I cared about and enjoyed. I would spend hours writing up plans for Arcadia Civic Youth Council, designing graphics for The Arcadia Quill, and hosting debate workshops for Speech and Debate. Even for my Beginning Video Production class, which I only took to fulfill my VPA credit, I put more effort into a stop-motion project than any literary essay I’ve written in my life.  

I was determined to live my life to the fullest, and for the most part, I did. This being laid all out on paper, it can sound inspiring—like a critique of America’s education system, or a stand against Arcadia’s academic toxicity. 

But in reality, I feel the same amount of regret and sadness as the “standard” AHS senior who didn’t get to indulge in their passions or go out with their friends often.

It’s sinister. It doesn’t matter what you do in high school or how you’ve spent your time—almost everybody will feel regretful or bitter in some way upon their exit from high school. I personally regret not taking my grades more seriously, procrastinating to the point of self-destruction, not working hard enough, etc. 

But there’s this line of dialogue from my favorite cartoon Bojack Horseman that I think about very often. Bojack, a cynical horse, dejectedly says in the last episode, “Life’s a b—— and then you die, right?” And to that, Diane Nguyen, the depressed and relatable journalist replies: “Sometimes. But sometimes life’s a b—— and then you keep living.”

After my mom dropped the pregnancy bombshell on me, I went home and opened up a Google Document. Then I wrote. I described the way the conversation made me feel, poured my vulnerability into my words, and cried each time I hit the spacebar. Then I made a new folder called “read in college!!!!!!!” and dropped the document in there. I didn’t revise the writing, nor did I give it a second look. 

There was no tearful hug with my mother afterward, or some real conclusion to the story. I stopped waiting for a good ending, or some miraculous journey of recovery. Every so often I think about the fact that I was almost aborted, about the mess of my report card from junior year, and the ways I could’ve made my college applications better. But even after each rejection letter I open, each bad grade I receive, and each concert I have to miss due to poor scheduling, I still go to school, talk to my friends, and wake up in my bed the next day. 

The juxtaposition between the comedy of a retailer chain’s parking structure and the grimness of my mother’s words is almost exactly how I feel about my graduation. Graduation doesn’t give me the most satisfying closure, but closure is something I’m trying to not always seek. Life is full of surprises and sometimes it’s not. I will always bounce between optimism and existential dread, contentment and regret. But as long as I wake up every day, I will keep living.