Senior Column — Rebecca Tao ’22

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Rebecca Tao, Publicity Manager

High school can be a very lonely place. Or a place to meet new people and catch up with friends and discover new parts of yourself. Or it can be a very lonely place. 

One thing I realized is that happiness can largely be a choice. We can’t control the circumstances we are put in or the terrible things that happen to us, but we have control over how we respond to these events. 

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I joined the school paper as a freshman because I love writing. I still do. It’s a great way to release your emotions and consolidate them into words: tangible things that you can manipulate and shorten or lengthen. Writing was a method of damage control—self-expression and self-circulation. It was a sustainable form of self care. 

So while my Quill articles were frivolous, ranging from hair styling tips to an advice column on getting one’s driver license (which I have yet to achieve…), the practice of writing itself was nice. It was a way to take a pause in the middle of the day and throw together a short article: to feel a sense of accomplishment while also having done nothing impactful. It felt like a form of self-prescribed therapy.

As a senior, as a girl growing into womanhood, I find myself grappling with new emotions and situations every week. Things are changing so, so quickly, and I feel no defined sense of “self” yet. I know the things I like and dislike, the people I hang out with and the people I avoid, my political views, my forms of relaxation, but I’m not yet sure what constitutes my sense of self, my identity. 

It’s a lot of fun when you don’t yet know yourself. Every experience adds character; every person you meet teaches you something new, be it negative or positive. Every emotion feels intense. I’m not yet set in my ways or mannerisms. There’s this looseness and flexibility that only occurs at this point in your life.

But do others feel the same?

Not many people talk about the immense feelings of shame, loneliness, and self-judgment in high school. 

Have you ever had these thoughts before?

How did I get a C on that test? I’m so dumb.

I didn’t make it onto the swim team. I suck. I can’t do anything right.

My friends always hang out without me. My presence is undesirable. I am unwanted.

These thoughts are a lot to balance, because it’s not a pretty topic to bring up. Everyone struggles with self-pity and self-hatred, but no one wants to hear about it. 

There’s also a sanitation of anything wellness related in high school. “The kids are skipping classes too much; let’s limit wellness breaks to 20 minutes and make it extremely awkward to request for one.” Adults don’t exactly get it. So you’re kinda on your own. 

Like how I’m still figuring out my sense of self. I’m still not sure how to approach the issue of mental wellness in high school. But here are some general tips:

 

  1. Don’t care too much about what others think. Everybody’s got something to say, but that doesn’t mean it matters. 
    1. Note: do care about what your employers (and potential ones) think.
  2. Be nicer to yourself. 
  3. Learn to celebrate your successes and grieve for your losses. Acknowledge your emotions; it’s OK to not always be happy.
  4. Remind the important people in your life that you appreciate and love them. And not just verbally—act.
  5. Value your time and self-worth. Learn to set boundaries.

And this senior column can go on and on and I could write all day, but I have life to get back to. So go on, live. Live a lot.