Senior year in core memories

The epic highs and lows

Peak fall

Peering out into the perilous parking lot of the Crossroads shopping complex, I curse myself for the seventh time that day for forgetting my umbrella at home. My fluffy teal sweater does nothing to protect me from misdirected droplets of rain, and I become gloomier than the weather with every second that passes.

Luckily Olivia exits the store and holds a (slightly broken) umbrella over my head. Marlys steps out from the other side wearing her new white boots that I just know are going to get ruined the minute we go out into the open, and smiles. 

“Let’s get some soup.”

And so, I shove away my sheer hatred for rainy weather and venture into the unknown with my friends to secure my promised food.

It goes well for about four seconds until Olivia’s umbrella snaps backward, gets caught by the wind and flies out of her grasp. I stand there and watch with drenched socks, as she and Marlys chase after the runaway umbrella in the middle of the TJ Maxx parking lot. 

When we finally step into Boudin, broken umbrella in Marlys’s hand, I can’t even bring myself to care about the sorry state of my clothes and hair. After all, my friends are doubled over in laughter and soaked from head to toe as well.

Cusp of winter

I always have a checklist racing through my mind, reminding me of the same tasks I need to complete over and over in a nagging voice. And on Tuesday evenings, it’s all about Speech. 

Check the watch schedule, fill out the attendance sheet, prepare for the drills, oh yeah, the tournament’s com–


I stumble back, effectively jolted out of my thoughts, and blink in confusion at the nine heads sticking out of the doorway of B215 with grins on their faces. 

“Surprise for…?”

They move to the side, and when the classroom comes into view, I’m hit by the sight of assorted colorful cupcakes, gallon containers of juice and mochi donuts expertly arranged on the desks.

“Your birthday,” one of my kids responds, and I immediately whip my head around to my co-captain who looks at me with a knowing smile on her face.

As I realize that my branch has organized this for me, to make my day memorable, gratitude and joy swell up in my chest. And despite my long lesson plan for the day, I decide we can spare a few minutes to enjoy their thoughtful surprise together. 

Start of a new year

“It sounds like you have depression and anxiety.”

My arms and legs, which had been huddled inside my shirt to conserve warmth, immediately shoot out at his words, and I sit up straight in my chair, alert.

“I’m sorry…? What did you say?” I question in a trembling voice, heartbeat pounding in my ears.

“These symptoms, they’re very characteristic of depression and anxiety,” my psychologist repeats. “We should schedule an appointment for…”

I tune out the rest of his sentence, too hung up on the words “depression” and “anxiety” to register his suggestions of what to do going forward.

It wasn’t that what he was saying didn’t make sense. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that the way I felt every day for the last three years — an unending pit of sadness, insurmountable waves of exhaustion and never-clearing fog — wasn’t normal. 

Perhaps it hit me so hard because I’d known all along, but I just didn’t want to accept it. 

Nearing spring

My arm is cramping, but I will myself to ignore it, focusing on heaving the giant cardboard box up the C building stairs. Barely managing a whispered “thank you” to the person holding the door open, I sprint into Ms. Nava’s classroom and set the package down with a loud thud.

The other La Pluma officers come in behind me and with a knowing glance, we grab some scissors and tear the boxes open with a compelling sense of urgency. Though the cardboard looks like it’s been mauled by a bear when we manage to get it open, the magazines that wait for us inside are worth it.

While flipping through the pages, which we had only seen on the perplexing interface of InDesign so far, satisfaction and pride flood through my body as I cherish the vibrant artwork and moving poems united through thoughtful graphic design.

As the rest of the management team finishes poring over the freshly printed magazines, we turn towards each other and collectively jump into a hug, nearly toppling to the floor — faintly aware of the cheers and laughter of the staff writers and artists who helped us create our beloved magazine.   

In full bloom

My mother and brother hover behind me as I scroll through my inbox, clicking on the long-awaited email. My dad waits anxiously on the other end of the phone, standing in the cold outside the temple and praying for good luck.

Just a little jittery, I open the first of the UC decisions that came out that day and hold my breath. Silently skimming through the letter, my heart sinks into my stomach as I get the gist of the message — I’ve been waitlisted.

I shake it off and open the next one, met by a “We would like to offer you a spot on our waitlist” once again. The final decision seals the blow, the university’s rejection blunt and clear.

After accepting my family’s pats on the back and watching them leave, I quietly climb into bed and stare at the ceiling. Despite my best attempts to will the thoughts away, I can’t help but spiral into self-doubt and insecurity — only able to stop by giving in to sleep.

The following weeks are the same as that day, filled with rejection after rejection. But a month and a half later when I commit to UC Santa Barbara, I’m rather glad that things worked out this way.

The future