SSS: Semester of serenity or stress?

Chelsea Li

As I submitted my last college application on Dec. 31, I felt like a new person. At long last, I had come out of my house to the bright sunshine and sound of birds chirping, finally breathing a sigh of relief. For most of first semester, I had looked forward to relaxing once second semester officially started. As I toiled through essays, developed a strong hate of the Common App and watched jealously as my classmates vacationed in various tropical places, I reminded myself of the light at the end of the tunnel. However, as the new year dawned and school started up again, a statistics quiz my first week back, a time-consuming new job and AP Government darkened the horizon, causing me to wonder whether being a second semester senior was really worth the anticipation.

Since I was an underclassman, I had always imagined how my last semester of high school would go. I envisioned looking forward to acceptance letters, senior prom and of course, graduation, free of the burdens of standardized testing and applying to summer programs. In my freshman imagination, I drive my friends to new places every day, returning home late every night. We embark on spontaneous road trips or hit up fast food restaurants at 2:00 a.m. Flash forward a few years, and not only have I procrastinated on obtaining my license, but my parents have also instated a curfew despite the fact that I had, unsurprisingly,  been holed up in the house almost all of first semester.

At last, I have reached the promised land, and to be frank, the view is quite underwhelming. As soon as winter break ended, I was brought back to reality by the resurfacing of all my responsibilities. Once again, I became caught up in homework, tests and quizzes. As your average Lynbrook student, I’m accustomed to putting effort into all my classes and meeting deadlines obediently, as I had done throughout high school. Sure, I had the extra time that had previously been taken up by college applications to spend any way I wanted, but instinctively, I continued to dedicate most of my efforts to school. Sure, there were times I cut myself some slack, hastily skimming over couple of reading passages and scribbling some illegible notes, but I wasn’t about to let go of every deadline completely. The rebellious teenager in me rarely found its way out, and even the dawn of second semester couldn’t change my inherent nature.

Outside of school, I teach elementary and middle school students piano, and my job resumed immediately when the semester began, adding to my responsibilities. Break had ended, and my carefree elementary students returned from their vacations in exotic countries, theme parks, tropical cruises, you name it. During our lessons, I listened wistfully as they described their winter breaks, so much more fun compared to my own “break,” that was filled with caffeine-induced writing, the occasional mental breakdown and thoughts of giving up on college and starting a career as a rapper.

Speaking of employment, every other senior seems to be on the job hunt, and I am no exception. Thus, when my piano teacher offered me a temporary, well-paying job as an accompanist for a choir, I couldn’t refuse. I realized too late that I had to internalize a vast amount of music within an extremely short time, and I had not legitimately touched the piano in the past two weeks, because, surprise, something had been keeping me busy. I quickly discovered that being an accompanist is no easy job, and before I knew it, I had acquired yet another heavy responsibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad I have made it of the tunnel alive, shedding the pressure and stress that come with applying for college. Throughout my journey, I felt uncertain and afraid, and I seriously wondered if any colleges would accept me. The thought of rejection after rejection and often popped up in my mind as I wrote college essays, but it was mainly the promise of SSS that kept me on the grind. Now that I’ve emerged on the other side, I have concluded that as times change, there will always new responsibilities. My fellow seniors may not be experiencing the same responsibilities as I am, but most of us probably have something else to attend to. When one challenge is overcome, we will inevitably meet another. Although my quality of life has risen considerably, I can’t say I’ve let go of all my stress and entered the paradise I dreamed of as a non-senior.

So what’s there to do? Nothing much, except to wait and be ready to face any new obstacles that come my way. As the first month of 2018 comes to an end, I am pleasantly surprised to note that I’m (mostly) sticking to my New Year’s resolutions; for example, just a few days ago, I politely rejected a friend’s offer to buy me boba, and I’ve scheduled time to exercise every day. For the most part, I’ve come to appreciate second semester. I have had more time to reflect on my goals, to develop my friendships and to maybe even pursue some newfound interests. Like any other senior, I’m looking forward to graduation, a major turning point in my life. Of course, those fateful letters from colleges are yet to come, but before I hear from any institution again, I am determined to wholeheartedly enjoy SSS as much as I can.