Senior Columns: Today I am a senior

Senior+Columns%3A+Today+I+am+a+senior

Anjana Melvin

Note to reader: This is an adapted version of Eleven by Sandra Cisneros

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Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.

What they don’t understand about high school and what they will never tell you is that when you are a senior, you are also a junior, sophomore and freshman. And when you wake up your first day of senior year, you expect to feel like a senior, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel like a senior at all. You feel like you’re still a junior. And you are — underneath all the things that make you a senior.

Like some days you might stay up all night pulling your hair out, and that’s the part of you that’s still a junior. Or maybe some days you may have time for doing things you once loved to do — read, paint, hang out with friends — and that’s the part of you that’s a sophomore. And maybe one day while you’re college touring you’ll feel the nerves of starting something new like if you  were a freshman, and you’ll feel like running back to the safety of the life you’ve always known, and that’s okay. That’s what I told myself when I was about to step onto my future college campus for the first time, and the butterflies in my stomach were trying to eat their way out. Maybe I was feeling like a freshman.

Because your years in high school are really like the training wheels on a bike or your mom holding you steady even when the training wheels come off. As a freshman, sophomore or junior you are so, so ready to just go. You’ve been waiting for this moment. Freedom. Independence. That’s how being a high schooler is.

Graphic by Anjana Melvin
Graphic by Anjana Melvin
As it gets closer to graduation, there are certain days when I think to myself: not yet, not yet, not yet, but these last few weeks of May are passing faster and faster. Sometimes I get this awful feeling, these waves of sadness that come out of nowhere and I don’t know why but all of a sudden I’m feeling sick inside, like those training wheels were ripped off unexpectedly and my mom let go of my hand even as I begged her to hold on and please, please don’t let me go. When this part of me that’s a freshman wants to come out of my eyes, I squeeze them shut tight and grit my teeth really hard and try to remember that today I am a senior, a senior.

But you don’t feel like a senior. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months. I mean there are the little things, like walking around with your car keys or standing on the senior bleachers or complaining about how #sss was the biggest lie you had ever heard. But you don’t feel “old” senior, not until you’ve almost graduated and you start to rethink every moment you’ve ever spent in high school. That’s the way it is.

Today I’m a senior. My senior portrait is hanging on the wall, I have college acceptance letters in random places around my house and rejections hidden deep inside my gmail inbox. In about two weeks I will be getting my diploma and that night we’ll have the senior all night party, and the next morning I will be 18 and suddenly I will be shoved right into the next phase of my life completely and utterly and hopelessly unprepared for the future. And, at least a few more times before June 3 this year, I will walk down the hallways in the upstairs C building remembering my freshman self walking down the exact same path trying to avoid getting mowed down by the then-seniors and  with a hope beyond hope that one day that will be me. And now they are me, or I am them, or both, and I’m sure that some part of all of us wants to go back to being that scrawny, wide-eyed freshman.

So yes, today I am a senior, but I am also a junior and a sophomore and I wish, more than anything, that I were still a freshman. I want that finish line to be far, far away, like SATs and prom and college were four years ago. So far away you can only begin to imagine it.