It’s just high school

I recently went to a dance show at Crossroads that I couldn’t help but think by “Harvard-Westlake standards” was unprofessional. The girls screamed and cheered for each other from backstage, dancers were visible from the wings and many a dance move was out of synch.

But most notably, the dancers looked incredibly happy. They giggled and seemed to add spontaneous moves towards the end of the show. I loved “Pinocchio” this year, but there’s something to be said for dancing just for the love of dancing, instead of trying to put on a professional production with hours of grueling rehearsals.

I see this dichotomy as what separates Harvard-Westlake from any other school. I thought my high school experience wouldn’t be very “high school” because I went to Harvard-Westlake, a school that has been described to me before as a “mini-college,” so I expected my life to be similar to that of someone in her early twenties.

And yet senior year was really the one that sat me down and told me I was still a teenager, whether I liked it or not.

It reads like the storyboard to Mean Girls: at the beginning of the year, I found myself in the middle of girl drama worthy of the Gossip Girl writers. I was victim almost all year to a bad case of unrequited love. I felt like I had reached my ceiling level in all my activities and couldn’t get ahead. It was like I was cursed.

I spent an ungodly amount of time talking about my problems with friends and family, and what upset more me than that all this drama was happening, was that I actually cared about these stupid little things. I used to think anything “high school” was not worth my time: I was a Harvard-Westlake student! I didn’t have time for such things. I was one of those people who might have said prom is “silly” and gotten all indignant over a little mayonnaise on the railings.

I took myself very seriously. It’s hard not to at this school, where every program considers itself the premier and students are nationally renowned physics students, playwrights and water polo players.

But in the face of a lot of rejections, academic and emotional, at some point, I believe it was second semester, I really just had to say, “Screw it.”

Once I stopped thinking that all my decisions were the most important ones that ever graced the planet, things got a lot better. In a strange way, I’m grateful for all the brick walls I came up against. It taught me that failure is common and (gasp!) something than can be recovered from. It taught me what actual learning is. It isn’t achievement itself; it’s more in the failures.

What I needed to do to have a better high school experience, and what I think this school really needs, is to take a step back and realize that this is just high school. Why can’t people who like to sing, for example, just sing for fun, instead of constantly thinking about technical precision? I’m glad I pursued singing, but there is no such opportunity to just sing for the heck of it at our school as every choir requires hours of commitment to performances.

Harvard-Westlake is full of characters who in some way or another, think they are more important than they actually are, whether it is academics afraid a B+ will ruin them, or pompous kids those who think they are above the high school experience. But the thing is that in a few years, our high-school selves are not going to be important to anyone, or even ourselves. It is meant as a time to learn, to run into brick walls and learn inside this bubble and still come out alright.

Because even though it was Harvard-Westlake, it’s still just high school.