Senior Column — Pamina Yung ’23


Pamina Yung, Features Editor

“We live to die.” This was the kind, optimistic message scribbled on the side of the cardboard divider propped up on my desk for the AP Chem exam. And although this sentence was probably written by a previous student wallowing in their sorrows, it’s the subconscious reality that fuels both my mental breakdowns and leaps of faith.

Up until high school, I was always afraid of taking the wrong step, so I stayed in place. Envisioning perfection, I instantly rejected anything new and was hesitant to accept any form of change. But you can’t live life as a statue. Throughout the past four years, I’ve constantly been thrust into uncomfortable situations, from daunting Quill interviews to sticky social standstills. Whether or not I can truly process it, each of these moments tore me down and forced me to rebuild myself.

I gradually let go of that image of perfection I was desperately chasing, and I am now all the things my younger self hated—extroverted, loud, emotional, spontaneous. I became an amalgamation of survival techniques, coping mechanisms, and my friends’ various habits. The most significant aspect of myself that changed was my perception of others. I used to think being pessimistic made me smarter—that I was somehow protecting myself against other people and not falling for their deception. However, I’ve started to give kindness and put blind trust in strangers, even more than I do in myself. I’m not exactly sure why I do this, but I think it’s because I need to be able to give people I don’t know the ultimate benefit of the doubt before I can accept myself as I am.

Arcadia is tough as nails, but my peers are even tougher. This school’s rigor has helped me develop self-reliance and esteem, despite its pressurized environment seemingly intended to do the opposite. We work so hard; it feels like we became freshmen, blacked out, and woke up as seniors. There are many pages I’m skipping over.

When I reflect on my high school experience, I don’t really consider my academic journey because its impact on me pales in comparison to the relationships and character I’ve developed. I am so grateful for my close friends who have shown me grace and love beyond my comprehension. Thank you, Kaylee Kwan, for letting me be your passenger princess when we go out for lunch. Thank you, Nathalie Chiu, for encouraging me to go to social events. Thank you, Yingjia Zhen, for always backing me up in an argument and keeping me mentally grounded. I’m grateful for them, and I know they’re grateful for me. While we may not be a part of each other’s daily lives moving forward, they’ve embedded themselves in me. They have given me a fruitful high school experience and make me feel like I ended senior year strong despite the senioritis.

Contrary to the pillars of Arcadia, I think I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that, sometimes, it’s OK to be mediocre. This acceptance of mediocrity has helped me romanticize my own plain existence. I don’t need to find a special occasion to wake up early on the weekends, and I feel comfortable hanging out by myself in public. Finding the beauty in myself allowed me to see the beauty in others and mankind through all the murk. Because of this, I believe I am always the best version of myself.

Now that I’ve cut through the tangled net of the obsession with perfection, I’ve made my peace with the possibility that I might die in vain—that my life won’t look how I want it to and therefore be ruled pointless. Even if I die tomorrow, I have lived. And that’s wild enough.