The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

Senior Column: Caroline Li


Novelist and short story writer George Saunders once said that a writer’s potential is limited not by their inherent talent, but by how efficiently they can learn to get out of their own way. Writing is a sort of psychological battle with the self’s defenses in that sense.

I think that metaphor can be extrapolated to the entirety of my high school experience, if not life as a whole (which, admittedly, I have yet to truly experience). I can’t count how many times I’ve psyched myself out of trying out for a sport or academic team, turned my back on something I genuinely enjoyed because I wasn’t “good enough,” or convinced myself that since I’d be rejected anyways, there was really no point in applying. All the while, I stuck with the excuse that I wouldn’t have had the time anyways between my coursework and personal life. High school was simply eating up my life, and there was nothing I could do about that, not until the sweet release of college.

With said release just on the horizon now, I have since allowed myself to realize that it was never high school getting in the way of doing the things I wished I could do, as I’d so adamantly wanted to believe. High school was just the first and easiest alternative to the true culprit: my own fear of failure. 

In fact, high school was what gave me the opportunities and courage to do those things, especially in my senior year. It’s given me what seems like endless new friends, adventures, projects, interactions, and revelations: my amazing art classmates, the France exchange trip, an entire mural, discussions about the idiosyncrasies of Russian grammar and literature, the realization that I love making people laugh, that anything can be art (even math), and that I enjoy trusting myself to be the best version of me. 

If I could talk to my freshman fall self, I would tell her that her senior spring self is very very happy, failures and all. She has no shortage of friends and books to keep her company, and she still likes to write and laugh and paint things that make people smile. I want to tell freshman Caroline that falling into the bushes in B Row, making strawberry tanghulu at sleepovers, and obsessing with friends over cool music are the moments that stick. Not late nights spent overthinking or getting rejected from colleges and workshops.

Like many things in high school, writing this article has been an exercise in trust. To arrive here, I have trusted in my ability to write something publishable, trusted that my editors would help me do just that, and trusted that its reader (that’s you!) would be willing to meet me halfway. In finishing this article, I hope I’ve proven to myself just how far this trust can carry me. I cannot wait to see where it takes me next.

People I’d like to thank:

Ms. Bradley: For always staying after school so we can finish our projects and insisting on helping us reach our full potential. Thank you for chatting with me about anything and everything, from Impressionism to recommendations for de Beauvoir. L’invitée is currently at the top of my to-read list.

Mrs. DeSurra: For your kindness, generosity, patience, and a thousand more goodnesses. Your creative writing class is why I win the battle with the blank page more often than not. I wish you luck and many Taylor Swift albums to carry you through your own blank page battles.

Madame Krikorian: It’s been four years since I first memorized the French alphabet in your freshman year Zoom classroom. Ever since, you have not only nurtured my love of the poetry that is the French language, but helped connect me to classrooms of people to obsess over it with.

Mrs. Landis: For believing in me. To me, that’s one of the most precious gifts you can give someone, and you give it in spades. I hope that, like the pink flamingo, you stay fabulous, and that, unlike the pink flamingo, you remain forever your amazing self.

Mrs. Lee: For inspiring us to never stop giving our all, both in and outside of the classroom. Thanks to your dedication to our paper, I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people. It’s taught me that just as journalism connects readers with the novelties of our world, it connects us writers with fellow writers.

Mrs. Orlowsky: I would not be in The Quill without you. Thank you for giving me the courage to try things, whether that be choreographing, or hip hop, or journalism–and for grading all my extra credit assignments.

Ms. Oku: For being there and answering all my questions. I know it’s your job, but it’s still a comfort to know that you’ve seen and helped thousands of kids go through what we’re going through right now.

Mr. Pasqua: For being understanding and always making fifth period fun. I am frequently comforted by the fact that, if I ever need to file a restraining order, you are an email away. Also, I do not have a poker tell.

Mr. Smith: Your dad jokes and banter with the class make mornings and math easier to bear. Whether you’re playing the guitar or grading our tests, I hope you know that you’ve been integral in helping me pass this class. Haha. 

Emma Chua: The kindest person I’ve ever met. You have so much to give, always, and inspire me to be better and kinder every day. Your determination and hard work will pay off, and everyone around you knows it. I hope you do too.

Emily Luo: You are so funny it’s not even funny. I love your dog and I hope you never forget how happy I am to be friends with you. Good luck on your French test, and remember that quinoa is NOT pronounced “kwi-no-uh.”

Patience Choi: Driven is the first word I think of. No matter how far you go we’ll always be in touch. Partly because we have cell phones, partly because you’ll always be the name I put after Chère when we write fake letters in French class. Train hard and take care.

My family: You are the reason I write, even if I’m not always aware of it. The sacrifices you have made in supporting me mean everything to me, and I promise to always find the joy in life wherever I can. Don’t forget to feed the cat.

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    Yijia LiuMay 28, 2024 at 10:55 AM

    Yoooooo! Caroline!!!! 🙂