Welcome to High School-opoly, a nerve-racking strategy game that high school students across the nation are playing. The goal? Simply staying in front of everyone else…it’s all about bringing the spotlight on myself. And there’s only one way to distinguish the winners: whoever can score the best colleges. It’s become mandatory to dress up college applications as best as I can, which means planning these four years strategically.
It seems as if I, and all the other high school students out there, really have no choice but to play this game, because a lot more is at stake here than fake money, and the ones who don’t play it well are kicked to the curb. But are they? Sure, the prospect of ending up at a college that falls short of my overachieving goals is something that keeps me tossing at night (sarcasm intended), but after I take a big step backwards I begin to ask myself, “What in the world am I doing?” This board game of high school is controlling my life, and it’s not even a fun game. In this game, AP classes earn me extra points (and A’s earn me even more!), and volunteer services and extra-curricular activities are also brownie points which push me forward a couple of steps by adding color to my college apps. Because my schedule can only spare one elective spot, I’ve debated over in my head between Orchesis and Powwow since freshman year. The main question wasn’t which one I enjoyed more, but rather what would look better on my college application.
But no matter which one I finally decided to pursue, there’s always a nerve-wracking fear that the decision I just made is something I will regret later on, and I’m always forced to take a step back and reconsider. I don’t know what the right move is…until I realize that I’ve made the wrong one. The summer before freshman year, otherwise known as the last peaceful days of my childhood, my parents forked over $625 to have me take a college elective during summer school because I thought I would have no opportunity to take an elective during the school year. Not only was the class horrible, it wasn’t until this year that I finally realized the class I took was completely useless, an utter waste of both my time and money. I can curse myself for not planning my four-year plan out better and being able to predict every unpredictable thing that comes across my way, but because it’s impossible to go back in time, there’s nothing I can do about it. Every since stepping onto Arcadia High (and even before that), I became completely devoted to making my college application look better, completely discarding my interests and talents.
But there are times in life where you suddenly get a “Eureka!” moment, or when you suddenly start to see life clearly. I received one of those moments, and I realized that I’m tired of treating my high school years as a game that I am completely obsessed over. By making strategic moves I created a mask showing someone that I thought colleges would like to see, but eventually I started to ask, “what’s wrong with the real me?” Instead of being simply a pawn doing what I am told to do, I should decide what I want to do. So rather than taking every AP class that comes my way just because they’re extra points, I’ve decided to slow down and take only the ones that I find interesting (and it helps that I find a lot of things interesting). And instead of poking around on the internet for hours looking for volunteer ideas that would give me an extra push on that cursed board game, I ask myself, “what do I want to do?” Once I start thinking of my interests, the options are endless, and it’s all things that I would gladly do.
My only regret now is that I haven’t realized this sooner, because I could’ve saved myself a lot of migraines. I’m not trying to say that I have completely rebelled against my parents and lost all my determination to get into a good college, but simply that now I’m playing the board game with my interests in mind. The prospect of winning this board game and getting into the college of my dreams is still something that pushes me forward, but how I move forward has changed. Instead of me shaping to what the board game demands as the right way to succeed, I’m carving a new direction that screams me, even if it might not necessarily be the most effective way. After all, life isn’t all about winning, sometimes you have to slow down and smell the flowers.