Looking Back at My High School Journey and Looking Forward to the Future: A Personal Account

After four years of high school, I now stand on the precipice of college and the unknown.


Cparks, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the class of 2023 concludes their twelve-year academic journey, college looms with both challenge and excitement.

Four years ago, on June 6th, 2019, I entered the Bronx High School of Science as a ninth grader, unaware of what the future held. Now, having completed my final days as a high school student, and having graduated on Friday, June 23rd, 2023, I reflect on the journey that has brought me here.

New York City has been my home for all 17 years of my life. I am intimately familiar with the nuances of my neighborhood, the secrets of the subways, and the architectural beauty that surrounds me. However, like millions of others my age, I face the daunting prospect of leaving for college this fall — a departure from everything familiar. It means bidding farewell not only to the friends I have made, some of whom I have known since Kindergarten, but also to my home, my parents, and the comfort of my current lifestyle.

For 12 years, I have attended school in the same type of buildings, following rigid schedules within the five boroughs. College offers the freedom to live the life every teenager dreams of — a life free from complete parental control. It is an opportunity to grow up, breaking away from the monotony of waking up early and attending the same nine classes in the same building every day.

As the end of high school approaches, the pressure to have a clear vision of the future intensifies. Friends, family, and society at large expect us to have our lives all mapped out, and to have a concrete plan for our future. But the truth is, most of us do not have all the answers, and that is perfectly okay.

The transition from high school to college is undoubtedly a significant milestone. It is a time for self-discovery, exploration, and personal growth, as we are encouraged to step out of our comfort zones, challenge ourselves academically, and pursue our passions. It is an opportunity to redefine ourselves and become the person we aspire to be.

Amidst the excitement and endless possibilities, there is also a sense of uncertainty and fear of the unknown. The path ahead may seem unclear, and the pressure to make the “right” choices can be overwhelming. We may question our abilities, our interests, and our worth. And, in some instances, it is easy to feel lost in a sea of options.

However, not having all the answers right now does not mean we are destined for failure. Life is a journey of continuous learning and growth. Our passions, goals, and aspirations may evolve over time. We may stumble and make mistakes, but those experiences shape us and provide valuable lessons.

Instead of viewing uncertainty as a burden, we can embrace it as an opportunity for self-exploration. College offers a myriad of resources and avenues to explore different fields, engage in extracurricular activities, and connect with diverse communities. It should a time for each of us to broaden our horizons, challenge assumptions, and discover new passions.

Success is not solely defined by society’s standards or predetermined benchmarks. It is a deeply personal and subjective concept, with the idea of success taking on different meanings for different people. It could mean finding fulfillment in a meaningful career, making a positive impact on society, or simply leading a life that brings us joy and contentment.

Now, as I stand alongside my fellow graduates of the class of 2023, a new phase of life lies ahead. What dreams await us? What does the future hold? High school, with its four years, gives way to four more years of education — this time at college. 

However, I will not claim to be some all-knowing wisdom-filled being (I’m still not Yoda). I still have no idea what “my path” is, yet here I make it seem easier than it truly is.

As I look back on my high school journey and anticipate the next chapter, a mix of emotions swirls within me — excitement, apprehension, and a touch of fear. Despite the expectations and pressures placed upon us, many of us are still grappling with the question of what lies ahead.

During my time in high school, I have witnessed friends and classmates confidently declare their dreams and aspirations. Some were resolute in pursuing careers in medicine, law, or engineering, while others expressed their passion for the arts, social justice, or entrepreneurship. Their clarity and conviction were admirable, but they made me question my own sense of direction.

Admitting that I have not yet figured out my path isn’t easy. While some may see this uncertainty as weakness or indecisiveness, I view it as an opportunity for exploration and self-discovery. I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, so perhaps I write for my college’s newspaper as I have in high school. Maybe I want to work as a financial advisor, or maybe even pursue something completely different such as becoming a lawyer. We do not have to have it all figured out at this stage of our lives. The journey of finding our true calling is often filled with twists, turns, and unexpected detours.

In a world that emphasizes certainty and concrete plans, embracing the unknown can be unsettling. We are bombarded with questions about our majors, career goals, and long-term plans. But what if we allowed ourselves the freedom to explore, to pursue our curiosity?

College provides the ideal platform to do just that. It offers a vast array of academic disciplines, extracurricular activities, and diverse communities that can shape and influence our personal and intellectual growth. Maybe you try that new activity you have been wanting to do. Maybe you pick up a sport you have wanted to play, whether that is with intramurals, clubs, or just for fun. We have all the options there for the taking. 

While the pressure to choose a major or carve out a specific career path may feel immense, it is crucial to remember that college is not solely about career training. It is about discovering our passions, nurturing our talents, and honing our skills. It is about learning about the world around us, meeting new people, and having new experiences. It is by no mistake that people commonly refer to it as the best four years of their lives, ones they will look back on with a sense of pride and joy. 

Instead of fixating on finding the “perfect” path, let us allow ourselves to be open to new experiences and possibilities. Sometimes, the most life-changing and fulfilling journeys come from taking a more difficult path, not always the one of least resistance. It is about remaining flexible and adaptable, and recognizing that our interests and passions may evolve over time.

So while at the moment you may want to go onto Wall Street and work for a Fortune 500 company, in four years you might hope to work for UNICEF and aid in the fight against world hunger. Maybe you will feel a calling to teach. The world needs every single person, of every job, to work and function in this “harmony” that we all live in. That means we need the medical oncologists, as well as the school principals, as well as the stock investors. All of them contribute a great deal to our society, and regardless of where you land, you can surely make a difference too.

As I stand on the precipice of this new chapter, I embrace the uncertainty and acknowledge that I may not have all the answers right now. I am learning to trust the journey and have faith in my ability to navigate the unknown. While my future may lack a clear vision, I am eager to seize the opportunities that lie ahead, to explore uncharted territories, and to embrace the growth and transformation that college has to offer. And I invite all of my fellow graduates of the class of 2023 to do so as well. 

Sometimes, the most life-changing and fulfilling journeys come from taking a more difficult path, not always the one of least resistance.