Design / Haley Tucker
There comes a time when we all hit a brick wall. We push ourselves too far and are forced to take a step back and re-evaluate. Brick walls are plentiful in high school. That’s the nature of this time frame: it’s full of confusion and uncertainty as students over-exert themselves in order to figure out who they are and what they want in life. As adulthood looms closer, students are forced to reckon with their future.
The pandemic altered this pattern. As a school of “academic excellence” we are known at other schools as students who are trained to be “college prep prodigies.” But this year, we were forced to take a step back and wrestle with the question: What do I want?
Is college included in our answer?
Whether you are new to the Wildcat Nation, or you’re moving on and graduating after six years on campus, this guiding question is critical to your future.
From a young age we are taught what should matter to us. Education matters. Athletics matter. Extracurriculars matter. Volunteering matters.
I’m not negating the importance of any of these practices or values. But not everyone wants a PhD or to be a varsity-level athlete. The problem is, as a society we have grown to value those who seem conventionally capable of having a “successful life.” But success is subjective and varies from person to person.
Whether you decide to go to college for two years, four year, six years or not at all is obsolete. What matters is what leads us to living a fulfilled life on our own terms.
But today, deciding not to pursue a higher education is difficult because we fear feeling like an outcast. And particularly at West Shore, deciding that AP courses, Dual Enrollment or even a college education isn’t for you is practically taboo. We measure intellect based on a letter grade, a percentage or a class rank. And once we enter the wonderful world of adulthood, education is judged based on a piece of paper that we frame and hang on a wall.
College is perceived as a necessity. If we don’t have a degree, we are told we won’t get a stable job, we won’t make good money and we won’t live a happy life. We convince ourselves that this narrative is true. And it’s the last part — the fear of unattainable happiness — that guides us to this conclusion. But in striving for what others tell us is right, what are we giving up?
We get wrapped up in trying to please their friends, family and teachers that we forget to do what makes us happy. I’m not saying we should all drop our textbooks, skip school and spend every weekday at the beach. Life does involve work, and it’s not always fun.
But when we mindlessly force ourselves to follow what we are told is best for us, we give up the ability to make our own decisions. Maybe you’ve already hit your brick wall, or maybe the brick wall lies ahead. Regardless of what the years ahead entail, don’t let others tell you what you should do or who you should be. That’s for you to discover.