Seventh grade is an unfortunate year. Nervous 12-year-olds flooded onto the middle school campus in all their pre-pubescent glory, desperate to find a place at their new school. Almost six years ago, I was one of those seventh graders, embarrassingly awkward and self-conscious as I attempted to settle down with new classmates and to navigate an intimidating environment. Now, as I end my senior year, that scared, timid girl is long gone.
I know a lot of people don’t love it here and are anxious to leave. And although I can’t say I have enjoyed every minute of my time here, Harvard-Westlake has truly helped me grow into the person I am today. I’ve thought a lot about my growing up process in the last few weeks, and what I’ve come to realize is that I am not a different person, but I am a person who was given the right tools to expand upon what I was too nervous to show back in seventh grade. What this all boils down to is the fact that I have gained confidence in the last six years, something I had relatively little of when I first stepped onto the middle school campus.
I have realized that confidence is the key to everything, and when people tell you that, it’s not an exaggeration. You can work really hard, you can get good grades, you can have a lot of friends – but nothing matters if you’re not confident in yourself (I apologize for the cheesiness). For me, I initially found my confidence in my academic passions. When I came to the upper school, I started loving English and history. I threw myself into my work, finding purpose in literature and stories of the past, looking forward to those classes every day and pushing myself to understand more, write more clearly, and improve myself as a student. (Side note: Jane Eyre was also hugely inspirational for me as a sophomore, so 10th grade English team, I highly encourage you to bring that back into the curriculum. It’s definitely a necessary read for people who don’t think of themselves very highly.)
Working on the Chronicle has been one of the biggest factors of my transition. I was given the platform to speak my mind, and I had to fight for people to take me seriously. When I wrote my column about sexism in sports back in October, I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep because I was anxious about how people would view me: that crazy feminist who won’t shut up. But I came out of that experience so much more sure of myself, and I take tremendous pride in that I changed some people’s minds. To the people whose minds I didn’t change, I’m still working on it.
So I would like to end my senior column with some advice to the students who are starting seventh grade in the fall or beginning their journeys at the upper school: dive into your passions, put everything you have into them and have something you can be proud of. Give yourself a foundation to rely on when people disappoint you or when things don’t go your way, because that will happen a lot in high school. Leave yourself room to fail and be upset, but congratulate yourself on all of the things you have accomplished.
So when I move to New York in the fall, I’m going to take what I’ve learned at Harvard-Westlake and make my college experience my own.