COLUMN: Avi reflects on the whirlwinds of freshman year

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By Jessica Levin ('22)

Freshman year can be a tough transition for some students.

I decided that my Eastside Summer Assignment would be a letter to incoming high schoolers and what they can expect this upcoming year. Of course, I have to consider that the scheduling of the school year may be formatted differently in spite of COVID-19. I hope that even though whoever is reading this is under the conditions of COVID-19, they will take something positive away from my letter.

As I sit here not knowing where to begin with this assignment, I find myself emotional. This has been the most difficult year of my life, and this assignment gives me the opportunity to reflect on the many transitions and hardships I have overcome in the past year. I never thought that I would not have a traditional conclusion to the school year or a proper goodbye. I do not know where to begin with this writing piece. I am a perfectionist—everything always needs to be perfect; however, life is not perfect, and this year proved to follow the same circumstances. So here I go…

I remember the summer of 2019 and barely being able to tolerate the nerves that accompanied my upcoming 9th grade year. I was close-minded and I did not think that an individual could grow to the same extent I had. I did not think that my interests would expand, or that I would find that my abilities would exceed the maximum I set for myself. I chose the classes that I knew best suited the career I wanted to pursue. I was desperate for advice from those that were older than me because I thrived in a structured environment and I wanted them to guide me to that sanctuary. The truth is, advice does not mean a black or white answer to what is to become of you as a student or a person; it is a lesson taken from experiences, or from one’s past. I wanted some sort of direction, which I received. Although, what I learned myself is that each individual can grasp as much advice as they can, but they are responsible for forming their own path and future. Advice is not an answer; it ensures that you do not repeat the mistakes of others. Some of us share the same mistakes and would take back the moments that we feel burden us with failure. Some of us overcome those consequences, and others do not. I have learned that one’s mistake might be a pathway for your journey, while your mistakes could lead another towards their greatest potential. That is what being a teenager in high school is all about—making mistakes and learning from them, and discovering what makes you special.

I can’t believe that I’m sitting here writing to you in acknowledgement that I have completed my freshman year of high school. Mr. Z. was right—high school does go by faster than middle school. This past year, by far, has been the most difficult year of my life both academically and emotionally. I never thought that after experiencing so many obstacles between school and home, mentally and physically while attending Rosa I would be able to say that my life became more challenging in all of those areas; however, each day, I continue to learn more about myself and my interests, and that my capabilities exceed the limitations I have restricted myself with. I believe that as a human and an individual, I am destined to grow through all of my interpersonal struggles while I adapt to the morals they teach me. I hope that students and people, in general, will learn this lesson earlier in their lives than I had.

Overall, I did not have the most fortunate year. I spent a lot of time out of class and resolving personal matters that required my attention. I was forced to distinguish my priorities within a small time frame. If my hardships taught me anything, it is that my life is my journey, and I have the choice to learn and move on only to strengthen my mentality. I spent so much of my time discouraged academically, because I had the luxury of attending such a competitive and well-ranked school; however, this intimidated me. I felt insecure in almost every classroom because I felt that my peers were more hardworking or dedicated to their education compared to myself. This feeling could either discourage me or motivate me to let my level of thinking evolve. I cherish the memories I have made while seated in a classroom surrounded by people who shared a passion for learning and commitment in building a successful future. We all will go our separate ways one day, but we all will have a distant memory of sitting in that one classroom and enriched ourselves of history’s teachings.

As you know, I am probably one of the most academic and English students out there. It is difficult for me to find areas where I can build confidence and wear it inside and out. I’ve never had a doubt, however, that writing would always be something I held close to my heart. Growing up, I knew that I wanted to take my writing skills and level of thinking and share it with the world. I didn’t know precisely where that determination would lead me, and this year, my freshman year of high school, I developed a great passion for journalism. I chose Journalism 1H as one of my electives, the others being Writing Workshop H and Fine Arts. Journalism was the class I looked forward to most every day, and I strived to reach my fullest potential through every assignment. I knew that I wanted to participate in the school newspaper and unfortunately, freshmen are not permitted to apply their first year, but knowing that I could have a place on next year’s board was a source of encouragement to maintain my work ethic. I am proud to share with you that I received the position of an editor in the features section of my sophomore year. I’m thrilled to have been granted such a significant opportunity. I’ve already had a few board meetings and got to hear from Eastsiders who have pursued journalism as their occupation. I believe I will learn various skills from my peers on the board this upcoming year.

As much as all of my teachers endeavored to prepare me for high school, I think that there will always be parts of the transition that every student has to overcome themselves. East is no joke. That is the most simplistic example I can offer. The curriculum is challenging no matter what class or course you take. The requirements are time-consuming and the expectations are unrealistic. I just try to remember that taking all honors is wonderful if an individual can handle it, but taking a lower-level course is okay as well. I try to remember that just because I’m “handling” a class, doesn’t mean that I am suited for the course or satisfied with my work. It’s not worth taking high level or harder courses if you’re not happy and don’t have a life out of school. I try my best to stay in my own lane. I think those are the most important things to remember as an incoming high schooler and a student itself.

Whoever’s reading this, whether you’re an incoming high schooler at East or currently a high school student, I hope that you have learned from the story I’ve shared with you today. Thank you.

—Avi