Op-Ed: Fellow NCHS Seniors, Acknowledging Our ‘Obstacles’

To the Class of 2018:

We’ve reached the calm before the storm. It’s as if I can physically feel the internal clock that counts down the days until I leave my 15 years in New Canaan behind ticking its last few counts.

Comprehending the fact that the class of 2018 is now just going to be a name painted on a mural in the hallway by the Wagner Room is overwhelming. As anyone who has run their course through the New Canaan Public Schools system can attest, it feels like we’ve been curated since kindergarten to establish the unique identity of our grade both within our community and without. We are constantly asked what legacy our class will leave, what foot we want to put forward for future groups of students to follow.

A past NCHS graduation ceremony. Credit: Michael Dinan

We know who we are. We are the 2000’s kids, the class of the new millennium. We held the reins of the ever-popular New Canaan Bee Foundation, a student-led nonprofit. We are the class that got to see New Canaan High School both pre- and post-Principal Egan.

Some of us have spent almost our entire lives herded through hallways together. But who will we be when we walk through the gilded gates of our universities that are littered with the next generation of workers?

In the eyes of college admissions boards, most of us are students that have faced and defeated some monster of a challenge that has shaped us with a noble world understanding. We’ve glorified our adversity for self-gain in the form of college essays, convincing ourselves and admissions that yes, we have grown up in lives of New Canaan privilege, yet our unique fabric of setbacks has complicated what would have before been an easy life.

I fell into this path when writing my own essay, one that outlined the “profound” feminist revelation I encountered after being teased in karate school.

But the storyline that is whipped out of thin air under the stress of college applications is nothing that students actually experience. We are pressured to have overcome some enormous obstacle that has shaped us into the person we are when in reality, who we are is just a 17-year-old high school senior desperately trying to pave out a path for the future without a hitch.

New Canaan is a breeding ground for success. We see adults achieving in their careers, students earning countless academic commendations, athletes moving into the professional arena. We seek to rid ourselves of any failure or setback as quickly as possible to follow in this path, sweeping each and every problem under the rug until maintaining the facade that they are nonexistent becomes oppressive. The very idea of crushing all hurdles in our path is flawed at its core.

Real life for all students is the existence of obstacles left unsurmounted. Most setbacks worth noting are infinitely tall and wide, surrounded by ominous barbed wire fences and alarms waiting to be tripped. It would be impossible to surmount them. How can we really say that we’ve “conquered” managing overbooked schedules, overbearing parents, or even just walking into the cafeteria without seeing a familiar face?

The glory of finishing our high school careers isn’t the fact that we climbed over the Mt. Everest of our problems and can now walk forward without looking back. What high school graduates have done is successfully navigated their own mazes of affliction; finding ways around gaping potholes and wafting grey dementors and coming out the other end with a diploma.

So what legacy will our class leave? We’re not perfect. We won’t be the top-earning class to ever graduate from the halls of NCHS. But at the very least, I hope we come to terms with the fact that we are not the problems we wrote about in our college essays. We are so much more.

Class of 2018: We have not succeeded by overcoming our obstacles. We persevered despite them.

 

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