A Y1’s Reflection on BHSEC

Leo Farber, ’18

This time of year, as we approach the final half of our second semesters, whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, Y1, or Y2, we’re all eagerly anticipating the liberation, the warmth, and the bliss of summer vacation. Most especially though, looking up to my Y2 friends and peers, slowly becoming more and more entangled in the grasp of senioritis as their perspective grows from that of a student to a young adult, it becomes more and more apparent to me that high-school is not only a place to learn, but a place to find yourself. It is a rite of passage from childhood into adolescence and beyond. Along with it comes the chaos of having to balance your academics, social life, extracurriculars, family life, and even your own health and state of mind. It is an extremely dynamic journey in which we engage in an internal battle between our greatest weaknesses and our greatest potentials. We are put face to face with the hardships and the dedication that is integral to a successful and meaningful life, and in this sense high-school has been the most defining time of my life.  

Unfortunately I’m only a Y1 and even now I know that the insight and experiences that high-school has provided me with are incomplete. Bard is, literally, “a place to think”, a place to reflect, not only academically but in every aspect of life. The unorthodox educational experience we have here translates into a much deeper and profound understanding of the reality of essentially, young adult life. In fact, coming to Bard as a freshman from a middle school in which I excelled, seemingly with ease, I was under the impression that high school would be a breeze. I believed that my four years of high-school would simply be a familiar, but slightly more challenging stop along my straight-lined journey into young adulthood; something that I just had to do in order to succeed in our competitive society. Little did I know however, that coming to a place like BHSEC would transform not only my outlook on life, but myself entirely. This realization is not an inherent part of the BHSEC high school experience but is a voluntary process which the school’s environment helps to facilitate, if one willingly pursues a path of change and progress. For example, there are two perspectives to view sitting in class everyday and conforming to the ebb and flow of class discussions that are dominated by a particular group of kids each time. Either you can accept it for what it appears to be, just telling yourself that those kids are smarter than you are and so their dominance is justified, or you can question why that is given that every student in the room is qualified to be there and has earned their place and their voice in the classroom.

Coming into BHSEC as a freshman, almost immediately, the transition into a rigorous academic environment filled with students who were as intellectually capable and astute as I was, was something that I hadn’t really dealt with before and didn’t know how to react to. From the 1st grade all the way to my last year in middle school, I had always been in the starlight, from being at the top of the honor roll, to receiving exceptional and motivating feedback from all my teachers. But walking into Mr. Garces Kiley’s literature class at 9am back in September of 2014, I felt like just another face in a crowd, a small crowd at that, but still, I felt insignificant. It was frightening and it was uncomforting. It brought upon me an abrupt realization that my prior successes had gotten me this far but wouldn’t take me any further. I’d have to make a name for myself all over again. No longer could I effortlessly thrive academically, and no longer could I define my success purely by my grades. Life was no longer a simple, leisurely stroll. It was constant pressure to keep up my school work while managing the stress that came with the responsibilities of growing into a young adult. Of course there were times where it all felt to be just too much, where I felt as if I was literally being drained of every drop of happiness and motivation. But the first step of progress is always acceptance and eventually adjustment and success. Once I was able to accept that I had left the comforting simplicity and bliss of my childhood, my perception on the world as a whole became slightly less skewed and I began to use the competitive and sophisticated nature of my environment as a motivating force. Over the years, this has manifested into an understanding that struggle, and even failure, is not a dead-end, but is a necessary part of the process to success, a significant learning experience.

Part of why this transition was so difficult for me at first is because I also had a lot of childish preconceptions and expectations that led me to believe that any and every aspect of life was simple and easy. As a child my life had been characterized by racial, economic, and educational privilege which I wasn’t yet capable of understanding or acknowledging, I thought that I had it easy simply because of who I was, not because of who I wasn’t. Coming to Bard however, I was immersed in a diverse community in which I was just another person, indifferent to anyone else but still privileged throughout my daily and lifelong experiences. Slowly the injustice of my privilege became blindingly apparent to me. I began reflecting on past experiences and it turned me into a much more conscientious and morally upright person. Most significantly, my transition led me to view people very differently, and as a result I lost many friends but also gained new and more valuable ones. I began to consider morality and ethics rather than how funny somebody’s offensive jokes were.

This is the essence of high school life. It is not only about keeping your grades up and preparing for college, in fact it is much much more than that. It is about breaking down and analyzing the life you had lived as a child, and understanding the reality of the adult world. Life is all about change, and high school is one of the most significant transitions because it genuinely enlightens the naive minds of children and challenges them in regard to their thinking, morals, ethics, and their relations to others and the world.  

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Illustration credit: Grace Wan, ‘18

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