Learn from your experiences

Jensen Pak

I will spend the next four years of my life in a frigid, isolated corner of Massachusetts at a school I knew nothing about two years ago in what will certainly be the biggest transition I will have experienced in my 17 years. As I leave, I have often reflected on whether my time in high school was worthwhile.

Last week I attended my elementary school reunion for high school graduates at the Mirman School. I was extremely excited to meet the people I had not seen for at least six years, but at the same time I worried my childhood friends would not recognize me. I realized that outside of sharing the same classroom, I had trouble connecting with the people who had shaped my life for years, simply because there were not enough noteworthy memories.

As I reflected on this, I recalled Jarron Collins’ ’97 conclusion to his speech at the Senior Boys’ Event: “How do you want to remembered?” The question worried me — what would people remember about me? What would I remember? Even though I’ve been in the Harvard-Westlake community for so many years, why am I so doubtful of what I would leave with?

It’s not hard to realize what Harvard-Westlake has offered me. The word is opportunity. Opportunity is supposedly what differentiates Harvard-Westlake from other rigorous college prep schools.

On the other hand, the word people don’t like to hear at Harvard-Westlake is challenge. However, we often fail to consider how, in another sense of the word, we are challenged to establish our own career among the limitless opportunities.

What I’ve learned in my time at Harvard-Westlake is that despite being offered so many options, it is up to you to find out what you want to do.

The truth is that I have had many regrets. There were opportunities that I wish I had taken. Times that I wish I had tried harder to be the best. That is not to say that I regret my six years at Harvard-Westlake. This school has helped me to develop in ways I could not have anticipated. I am no longer the same small and carefree child I was when I first stepped onto the middle school campus. I never imagined that my class would ever consider me to be capable of serving on Student Council for two years. I never imagined that I would ever become a lax bro, albeit only for a year.

Maybe you’re waiting for the indispensable wisdom that I can offer as a senior ready to head off into the world. I wish I possessed that wisdom. The advice I’ve probably heard most often is to follow my dreams. Sometimes it’s not that simple.

The most I can offer is to learn from your own experiences. The path we set for ourselves is hardly set in stone, and when we veer off the path in a new direction, the real challenge is making that direction our own.

I’m glad that I was able to find my own path at Harvard-Westlake, with all the detours that came with it. After all, those are the things worth remembering.