My senior year expectations

Evaluating the expectations I had for my senior year

Graphic by Sophia Ma

Graphic by Sophia Ma

Anika Sharma

“2-0-2-0, Let’s Go! 2-0-2-0, Let’s Go!”

A mass of seniors jumped and pumped their fists in front of banners painted to look like a haunted house and the mystery machine from Scooby-Doo. As streamers sailed down the bleachers in the gym, I watched longingly, hoping I would be as spirited and united as them when I became a senior, that I’d be able to look back on how far I’d come. 

But then, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the class of 2020 lost its graduation then the class of 2021 lost its entire senior year. I returned to school a year and a half later, ready to take on the senior year myself.

I always imagined my senior self as confident, well dressed and on my way to my dream college. But instead, I’m still very shy, struggling to put an outfit together each morning and amid a last-minute future plan change that’s left me scrambling to put together an art portfolio. 

In many ways I am still the same sophomore I was in 2019 — I’m still on Color Guard and El Estoque. Everything has blended into the routine of my life, making it feel as if nothing has changed. My apparent utter lack of growth this year affected my mental state, and suddenly it was difficult to get out of bed each morning because it felt like stepping back into a rut. 

My consumption of media has also played a part in my high expectations. Movies and YA books portray senior year as a time of intense self-discovery or a step toward the happy future waiting for the protagonists. It was either that, or the main character was totally alone — and even then, their loneliness was only temporary, the cusp of their coming of age story. 

Try as I might, I can’t relate to either of those two extremes. I believed that senior year would be an amazing, transformative experience where I’d grow into the best version of myself. But it’s just everyday life. I have good days and bad days just like every other year of high school, but they are now accompanied by college applications and a little more free time.

In the meantime, though, I’ve worked on small things everyday. My fashion portfolio demands a lot of my attention and I spend several hours a day working on it— making mood boards, sketching and constructing garments. 

One day I tried designing a suit. I didn’t have high expectations since my previous experience included drawing mostly women’s wear. However, the drawing turned out better than I expected. I decided to further test my limits and use colored pencils. I colored the suit black and grey and when I took a look at it afterward, I was shocked at the fact that I didn’t hate it. Far from it, in fact — I thought it was decent. 

A few days later I was looking through my sketchbook from sophomore year and I saw suits I had drawn that I believed were good at the time, and they didn’t look good to me anymore. I was proud but bewildered at my progress. Eventually, I realized it was those small improvements I had made from the first drawing to the most recent one that had manifested in a vastly better illustration. I realized this concept applied to people too, with small changes over time adding up to a better person. 

In hindsight, I can acknowledge that expecting a total transformation of self in only four years might have been slightly aspirational, even naive. In my experience, most change in life is marked by tiny shifts over weeks and months, hardly analogous to the sweeping transformations I so love in every coming-of-age novel.