When Life Gives You Lemons…

Ally Russell, a Scripps Ranch High School senior, is our writer for the 2015–2016 school year. She will share her thoughts about SRHS and life as a teen in our community. Ally is founder and president of the school’s Women in Literature Club and copy editor for the yearbook. She titles her column “The Story So Far…” because high school is a time filled with so many firsts. She says that while high school is a time for change, she realizes that she and her peers are just beginning their lives.

Senior year is supposed to be that final breath of relief, knowing you’ve done all you can and recognizing your future is now in the hands of the college admissions boards. The last four years, cramming to raise your borderline grades and collect experiences worth transcribing in college essays, end with that definitive click, saying “yes,” submit my application.

What they don’t tell you about this moment is the panic that comes after. Suddenly self-doubt descends and hundreds of questions enter your head, with the overarching one: Am I good enough? No matter what your SAT score is or whether you’re planning to attend a state school or an Ivy League, every senior has that moment of feeling like he or she fell short.

What you don’t expect in high school is the number of times you’ll get knocked down, cut from sports teams, fail the test you studied for all night, or suffer through your first taste of heartbreak. High school exists for many reasons, one of which, I’m convinced, is simply to corral teenagers so we don’t get into too much trouble.

Another reason I think high school exists is to create an environment, more secluded than the real world, that allows you to face failure and learn to recover, cultivating resilience. How we handle failures, learning to abandon juvenile outbursts and embrace looking at failure critically, defines our personality and ability to do well in life. Success is a welcome, often fleeting, emotion. Failure is a much more frequent companion. We can learn to fear it, or we can accept its inevitable presence in our lives and choose how to respond. With college applications sent across the country that will determine the course of our futures, there is nothing to do but wait.

In this waiting period there are two possible outcomes that I, along with the rest of the senior class, have been dwelling on…two answers to the question we are all dying to know: accepted or rejected? These two possibilities will, come spring, crush students’ dreams or validate four long years of effort. I can’t help but picture the two over and over again.

When facing the college admissions process, it’s easy to isolate yourself and assume you’re the only one embarrassed by your SAT score or your lack of volunteer hours. Every application, in every situation, has a weak spot, and it’s easy to believe ours is weaker than our peers when one exists in the isolated and super-competitive environment that is Scripps Ranch High School. I spend more time contemplating whether or not I’ll be accepted than I, admittedly, am spending on senior assignments, and I’ve gone over every possible scenario in my head. While I transcribe my experience about the application process, it’s easier to recognize that my trepidation isn’t more unique than my peers. We all are just seasoned at exuding confidence around each other.

It’s difficult to recognize that where I’ll be in less than a year is a decision no longer in my control. Will I be rejected from every single school I apply to? Will I be accepted to one, forced to commit to a school that isn’t my first choice? While 20 years from now I recognize it won’t make a difference where I get my degree, right now, with only my 18 years of life behind me, it’s difficult to think of anything else.

The future isn’t always meant to be predicted or planned. Sometimes life gives you lemons. It’s how you react and move on that shapes who you are and decides how far you go. Sometimes, despite how much it frightens us, we have to accept that some things are out of our control. We need to adjust to what life throws at us.

As this year ends, I can feel myself slowly learn to look adulthood more squarely in the eye. I’m anxious to use the failure I’ve encountered in high school to build myself into the individual I hope to become. How many times I’ve failed is not the defining factor in my high school career. What documents my progress from a 14-year-old to me four years later, ready to become a responsible young adult, is how I’ve learned to encounter failure and continue on. At the end of the day, we all will encounter failure, but it is how we react that defines our character.

Ally Russell, SRHS Senior