Senior column: The more you know (about yourself)

Roshni Veeramachaneni, Staff Writer

When I began high school, I was very much the product of a horrible middle school experience, which was mostly characterized by me feeling infinitely older than my classmates and being ignored most of the time. I’m sure that there are some who would ultimately fault me for this: Technically, I didn’t do much to draw attention to myself. I wasn’t the class clown, cracking jokes and making boring classes more bearable. I never acted out because I didn’t feel there was a true reason for me to do so. I wasn’t ever close to being someone who people envied, the kind who seemed to have everything. I was just a quiet girl, deeply dissatisfied and unable to voice why. Going into freshman year, I decided that I wanted to be different, and I was certain that high school would be the place to do just that.

But the universe made this a little more difficult than I foresaw, mainly because the people who I thought were my friends seemed to disappear overnight. I was as lonely as ever and certain that there was something wrong with me. Why else would the people who seemed to genuinely like me before suddenly decide to ignore my existence? It’s true that I hadn’t communicated with them much over the summer, but they hadn’t reached out to me either. Desperately, I tried to repair these friendships, but I became irrelevant to them like shoulder pads did to the general public after the 80s. 

It wasn’t until sophomore year that I discovered meaningful friendship with people who actually enjoyed my presence. It felt surreal to be finally funny and interesting to people, and not only for a semester while we had a class together.

That year was also the first time I was really tested academically with my first AP class of the seven I would eventually take, AP U.S. History. Signing up for APUSH was an easy, straightforward decision to make: I liked history, and I was bored in classes that didn’t challenge me. Yet as the class started, I began to feel disheartened. Even if I studied for hours, I was still doing badly on some assignments. I also realized that, as the year went on, I was actually doing worse. I wasn’t fancy French cheese, getting better with time, but grocery store milk. Eventually, I was able to feel confident in my academic abilities again, but that class was my first real challenge and helped me approach similar ones with less existential dread.

When junior year rolled around, I was following my instincts and showing people my true colors in a way that I had never done before. I was freer in the way that I expressed myself and vocalized my opinions, even the controversial ones, more often, in class and out of it. I started to care less about pleasing others and more about finding ways to grow as a person. I joined theatre full-time, knowing that as a fan of musicals and plays that I would enjoy it. I became the president of Rotary Interact Club, knowing that I had the people skills and drive to serve the club, even if I made mistakes along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed my AP English Language and AP Government classes because I could finally dig my teeth into topics that interested me.

On the flip side, I was also the most stressed I had ever been. I was in several AP classes, committed to more clubs than I could truly handle, and studying for the SAT through an online program, which is so evil that it must remain nameless like a certain villain in the Harry Potter series. These responsibilities began to mess with my sleep schedule. Almost every day, I would go to school, go to a club meeting, nap from 3 to 5 p.m. at home, and do homework until 2 a.m, only taking a break to eat dinner. I slept for a grand total of four hours at night. It became normal for people to comment “You look dead inside” and to have headaches after school. I would genuinely forget to shower for two days at a time and stopped doing my hair because putting it into a bun was easier. I started falling asleep in class for the first time in my life. Some days, I would drink coffee, even though I hate the taste of it, to keep me awake during my math class. The fervor I had for life was slowly slipping away from me.

Thankfully, as senior year began, I began to prioritize my mental health. I did take four AP classes but quit many of the clubs in which I was involved. I began to say “no” to things. It was still stressful, especially since I was applying for scholarships and waiting for colleges to make their decisions. But I had a network of people supporting me, and I was finally learning to take care of myself. 

I would like to end this with a few pieces of advice for underclassmen. First, don’t let the competitive nature of this school make you forget to make time for yourself and take care of yourself. This happened not only to me, but I still see this happening with others, and it is honestly terrifying what we can put ourselves through because of external and internal pressures. Second, don’t be confined to your own “clique” or “squad.” Meet and befriend people who have different passions and backgrounds than you; it’s genuinely life-changing. Lastly, have fun y’all. You deserve it.