Year 1 Reflection: A Tunnel

Grace Wan, ‘18

Ah, Y1.
No one said this year would be easy, but there is always a difference between being told that something will be difficult and actually experiencing it. Every source told me that Y1 – the year I feared that most coming into BHSEC – would challenge me. My grades would drop, I wouldn’t get nearly enough sleep, my workload would be nigh unbearable, and I would be stressed beyond belief. To an extent, it was all true. I’ve had my highest highs and lowest lows these past nine months, and it’s all culminated to an experience that I still don’t know how to accurately describe.

I honestly can’t remember much from first semester, which I consider both good and bad. The bad? The memory loss might be a side effect of sleep deprivation. The good? The first five months of the year were free from disaster. Most of the memories that I’m left with are positive (or at least neutral) ones: I’d taken the SAT and scored well, I was getting to know my peers more, and I ended the semester with a report card I was satisfied with. For the most part, I was cruising smoothly. A little shakily, but still smoothly. I was doing relatively well.

Then came second semester. Simply put, it hit me like a truck. If I had been cruising before, within a month I was taking a nosedive straight into the ground.

Many days I woke up feeling more tired than the night before, barely capable of dragging myself out of bed and to the train. Many days I came home beyond exhausted, at least partly because I had slept for four hours the night before. I could handle the physical stress, though. I’d been sleep deprived for a long while already.

The looming shadow of college didn’t help the situation. Every day someone asked me if I knew what I was going to major in, which colleges I was going to apply to, what I was planning to do with my life, and of course, I had no answer. I lacked answers to so many questions when I thought I should have the answers to all of them. The questions only became more frequent and searching as time went on.

I looked around me and saw that so many others were in a similar position. It both comforted and disturbed me that much of my grade was in such a state. I could handle the uncertainty, though. Being an incredibly indecisive person, I’ve thrown my choices to the wind and let fate take me where it would. (Sometimes I still wonder if deciding my high school with a coin flip was the best option.)

But the last two or three months of the year were riddled with obstacles that stacked upon each other without end. Every essay was followed by another, every exam followed by a more difficult one. Nothing seemed worth the effort, and each day seemed more like I was going through the motions than actually living. My mood fluctuated often but mostly seemed to reside in a hazy gray area that ranged from indifference to bitterness. I became more withdrawn – and anyone who knows me well understands that I am far from talkative. I grew more and more distant from both my family and my friends. I didn’t know why – I only felt increasingly lonely, but it also felt as though interacting with others would only cement the insecurities that I already had about myself. Perhaps everything that I had been bottling up was finally catching up to me.

I trapped myself in my own impenetrable bubble. It felt like I was alone, even when I was surrounded by people I was normally comfortable with. It felt like I was drowning in thoughts that I hope to never have again.

A part of me hoped that this phase was just some adolescence-induced pity party that would blow over soon enough. A part of me didn’t have the courage to hope for even that much.

I could handle all the stressors that had been thrown at me before. I could handle the negative thoughts that would well up every so often. But I felt about ready to break. I could feel the cracks forming already, and I was half expecting to break down at any moment. At times, I came close.

But, to my surprise, I didn’t.

Perhaps it was all the small things that I had to look forward to that pulled me through – the release of a new video game, the occasional compliments I received about my hair, the moments in which I laughed at a bad joke until I snorted. Perhaps with every crack that formed, there was something to keep it from breaking. Maybe I convinced myself that these little things were enough to keep me going, to get up every morning. The moments in which I laughed without reserve or felt confident enough to challenge the world were rare, but they were worth it. I don’t know what exactly pulled me out from wherever I was, but I do know that I’m not in quite as deep as I was before. I revisit it sometimes, but I don’t feel so stuck in it anymore.

In three weeks or so, I will be done with Y1. I can’t say that I will finish the year with no regrets. I can’t say that it was a magical experience that I’ll look back on fondly. But some part of me is that I can say that I survived and that I am wiser for it. Did I enjoy every moment (or even most moments)? Maybe not. But I’m glad that I got through it, that I can still see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

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Illustration credit: Grace Wan, ‘18

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