More Than a Label

For our Scripps Ranch High School column this year, four seniors share the writing duties. This allows the community to get “A Look Inside” SRHS and life as a teen in Scripps Ranch from unique perspectives. This month Docean Park looks at what everyone is asking seniors about this time of year. She loves to swim and play the cello. She became a writer at age 7 and wrote about ant people. Now she’s a bit more mature but still struggles to keep her head out of the clouds!

Well, it is that time of year again. Everywhere I go it seems I am asked variations of the same question: Where are you going for college? In school, at family dinners, at hair salons, with friends, and even at the dentist, the topic is unavoidable. Friends compare and discuss their acceptances in between classes, parents ask me repeatedly if I have decided yet, and people who I have just met or rarely spoken to before are suddenly dying to know my future plans.

Some days, those days when it feels like my heart may burst out of my chest, I want to tell them that I have decided, after careful consideration, that my favorite color is purple—not a weak, lavender purple, but a deep, dark bluish purple—and I like that in-between time of day, when it is neither afternoon nor sunset and the sky seems just as confused as I am.

I still struggle a bit with scissors, I listen to more Korean trot than I should, and I really am useless when it comes to food but I unashamedly watch The Great British Baking Show. I want to tell them that you are kind, perfect, and please do not take this personally, but I am tired of being so unsure all the time and quite frankly, I may be tired of college already.

Gap years, the military, and volunteer work are all pathways after high school. But college, especially at SRHS, seems to be the common route, the rational route, and, for some professions, the right route.

Still, the idea feels confining, part of the ultimate idea of how we should live. How we should do sports for well-roundedness, stick with activities that no longer interest us to show commitment, take harder classes and spend hours hunched over a textbook for that higher weighted GPA. How, at the same time, we should enjoy ourselves because high school is the best four years of our lives.

I still recall how last year, in the heated time of mock job interviews in Spanish 5-6, I had uncertainly chosen a job in the medical field and confessed to a classmate that it was not a job I was actually interested in. I just did not know what else to pick. My classmate suggested I had a problem because I should know what I want to do by my junior year. College applications, after all, were just around the corner.

For months, it seemed, I was constantly reminded of my indecisiveness. I had the sense that I was being left behind, watching others grow up and decide what to do with their lives. Should I be concerned? Was it that weird for a 17- or 18-year-old to not know exactly what to do with the rest of his or her life? High school, in a nutshell, seemed like an endless race toward an abstract destination, and I its unfortunate participant.

Now, however, I feel as if I am standing at the edge of a cliff, looking over the edge at blue water, a little more confident, a little more graceful than I had been when I started, and there is a part of me that wants to be wild and free. That wants to put off college, leave San Diego, get a tattoo, swim in waterfalls, ride motorcycles in Romania, learn how to surf, meditate with monks in Thailand, and never look back.

All this time I dreamed of this final moment. Yet with the end so near, I am suddenly wistful, unsure, afraid. I am years older, but why do I still feel so much like a child? I realize now there is another part of me, a part of me that cannot completely let go of this place. At least, not just yet.

To my classmates, as well as future seniors, wherever you end up after high school—a few miles from home, on the other side of the country, or in a foreign land—it does not have to define you. People assume that college should follow high school, and acceptance into a prestigious college suggests a bright future, but you are more than that. You are more than a college decision, a weighted GPA, an SAT score, an AP exam.

Turn the circumstances that you are given into something you are proud of, uniquely your own, more beautiful than anyone else can ever imagine. What college you go to or what you choose does not determine your value as a person or even your success in life. Who you are now does not have to define you.

You are more than a label.

Docean Park, SRHS Senior