Opinion: Unfulfilled senior year expectations

Ever since I was a freshman, I imagined my senior year to be a piece of cake. I would have most of my challenging classes out of the way, an off period and plenty of free time to take care of myself, hang out with friends and relax. As I’ve progressed further into this year, however, I’ve found the expectations I had for my senior year are far from my current reality. 

This idea of an effortless final year of high school stemmed from two places: watching my senior friends before me and college admission reaction YouTube videos

Because of band, I’ve had senior friends since I was a freshman. In observing the classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021, I hardly ever noticed the workload of college applications and academics bogging anyone down. As a matter of fact, my senior friends in the classes of 2019 and 2020 rarely mentioned college applications at all — it seemed they were merely enjoying their final year of high school with zero hindrances. Watching the people I looked up to seemingly breeze through senior year built anticipation for my own senior year, as I expected to experience everything in a fashion similar to what I saw. 

On the other hand, I went down a spiral of college admission reaction YouTube videos at the end of my sophomore year. These videos excited me for when I would  hear back from colleges; however, the amount of time and effort put into the applications themselves was never something I was aware of. Since I was watching videos solely of admissions decisions, I had no frame of reference for how tedious the college application process would be. 

Recently, I’ve found myself drowning in these applications, overwhelmed with extracurricular activities and struggling to find my sense of belonging within social groups. It’s been difficult having my final year of high school go nothing as I had hoped or planned, yet as I continue to plow through everything week after week, it seems as if these feelings of dissatisfaction won’t leave my brain.

Whether in regards to relationships I’ve lost or needing to rewrite application essays seven times, I have felt unfulfilled with myself. It appears I’ve let half of my senior year — a year I romanticized so heavily — slip through the cracks. 

One of the biggest letdowns has been feeling as if my younger self would be disappointed with where I currently am. I’ve endured a variety of hurdles in the past three and a half years — as has everyone else — and even though I know I am a stronger person emotionally, it sometimes feels as if I’m no longer as happy as I once was. It feels like a sense of youth and blissful ignorance that I once possessed is no longer a part of me. My senior self is regularly exhausted and has anxiety, while my freshman self was bright-eyed, hopeful and energized. 

Regardless of any feelings of disappointment, I have accepted that I am a different person than I was three years ago — and for the better: my mental grit has strengthened, and I know I am better able to persevere through obstacles presented in life. Despite some feelings of unfulfillment, I am working to make the best out of the remainder of my senior year and making memories that will last my lifetime.