Story by Kimberly Hsueh
Senior Staff Writer
I can’t remember the carefree feelings that surged through me in elementary and middle school. But I can recall that I was braver, happier, and more ambitious than I am now. My adventure started with daringly climbing the netted structure at Monterey Hills with my friends and daringly declaring my future careers with them in front of Mr. Hilger’s room. We dreamed of high school as a campus of freedom, the beginning of a bright future, and a tightly-knit community like in High School Musical.
It was a short-lived dream.
Together, my fellow peers and I swarmed through the gates of South Pasadena High School as freshmen with our faces bright and ambitions high. Most of us had the same classes, so we discussed freely and animatedly about the classes we wanted to take the following year and the years after that.
In the second semester, we confidently lined outside of our counselor’s office, hoping to take five APs as sophomores, and came out disappointed with a list of the necessary requirements and a grade-limited number of classes and teachers. To take the AP sciences, I needed to take Honors Chemistry. Would I take that during the summer, so I could complete three sciences out of the four by senior year? Would I take the math placement test to finish all the math courses and be done with AP Statistics as a senior?
Without one singular path that everyone walked in middle school and still limited with options in high school, I schemed to widen my options by fulfilling the courses’ necessary requirements, but by doing so, the connection between me and my friends weakened. Maybe that’s when “we” became “I.” We were still a group, but our vivacity was gone; we no longer daringly spoke about our ambitions and became wary of each other’s actions.
By junior year, we had secretively and strategically found ways to implement four or five APs into our schedule and often sneakily asked others about their classes. We kept them in mind, compared stats, and had one goal in mind: to one-up our classmates, to one-up our friends, and to one-up ourselves. Our expectations for ourselves became more than what could be handled. I lost myself in this toxic environment and lost sight of my motivation, goals, and future.
Now, in this pandemic, that competitiveness has faded and, maybe, it’s because of the loss of interactions. Maybe it’s because of the sheer amount of time we had to reflect and ask ourselves what we truly desired. But, the one thing that is for sure is the concrete loss of community. Our competitiveness indirectly broke our community and now having experienced that shatter, what are we going to do about it when we go back to school?
Obviously, this one article can’t inspire change, but don’t let competition break your friendships. Cherish your connections, share your dreams, and don’t let your community slip from your fingers.
Stay ambitious, but don’t lose yourself along the way.