High School Is Like An Amusement Park

May 2017

High school is like an amusement park. You can’t wait to go where all the big kids are. You spend all your time counting down the days until the gates finally open, and when you enter you might be wide-eyed or your eyes might be closed all together. Soon you find that some of the rides you’ll have to wait a couple years to go on, because you have to be taller. You try a little of this, a little of that, and slowly but surely you start to discover new things about yourself. Every once in awhile, you’ll look to your side and see a friend leaning just a little too far out of the Ferris wheel, so you pull them back to safety. You learn to appreciate the teachers, friends, and family members who kept you grounded when your world was spinning.

High school is like an amusement park. Sometimes it feels like you’re about to pass out and sometimes the kid next to you just won’t stop complaining. Some of the rides will make you throw up and some will be so awesome that you run right back in line to do it all again.

Occasionally you’ll be worried, and maybe you’ll doubt yourself for a second or two when they strap you into a slingshot and say “good luck.” Some of the rides don’t seem safe, so you learn how to use your judgement. Sometimes you’re flying forward at one hundred miles per hour, when all of a sudden everything you know flips upside down. Sometimes you’ll be on top of the world while others are dangling, holding on for dear life.

Last year, I found myself dangling, caught in an unhealthy habit that I’m sure many of you have encountered as well—I began to use my grades as a defining measure of my identity. After all, it’s so easy to constantly compare yourself to others in an academic climate where every test carries a numerical grade and every SAT score carries a percentile rank. It’s so easy to constantly compare yourself to others in a social climate where popularity is determined by Instagram likes and where “being friends” often applies more to social media profiles than to genuine personal relationships.

But we are all far too complex and have far too many talents to identify ourselves as numbers of any sort. When I look at our class, I see a unique blend of individuals, each with our own skillsets, each with our own experiences, but all with a common goal of growth and a common determination to persist. That is something of which to be extremely proud.

High school is like an amusement park. Sometimes you just can’t tell how long that slow, suspenseful ride up the hill will last. Over the past four years we have all encountered obstacles, academically, socially, and personally. For some of us, those challenges came on the first day of school when we were too scared to high five the Link Crew leaders who greeted us as we walked off the bus. For some of us, myself included, those challenges came with calculus (a subject which to this day I maintain should also count as a foreign language credit). And for some of us, those challenges came as a battle against our own minds with two minutes remaining in a brutal strength training workout when we had to persuade ourselves to keep pushing.

But no matter how hard we hit the ground, each and every one of us stood back up because the alternative meant giving up on ourselves, and that was never an option. Success is a mindset and positivity is all about perspective, so we learned how to persist. As Jon Sinclair once said, “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo,” so we dusted ourselves off and kept pushing.

The failures we encountered are not inked on our skin because grades can rise once again, motivation can grow from a new sense of purpose, and broken relationships can evolve to be stronger than they ever were before. Winston Churchill reminds us, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” So when things got difficult, our persistence always won.

After all, it doesn’t matter what your diploma says… whether you took nine AP classes or none. It doesn’t matter what your GPA was, as long as it was higher than your best friend’s, of course. What matters is that you are tough, you are resilient, and you are driven. I am confident that these three qualities will prove to be valuable assets moving forward.

Now it has been two and a half years since I’ve taken Honors Chemistry, and Mr. Luck I do apologize that I can no longer identify the catalyst that sparked a decomposition reaction, but I can say with certainty that the success we’ve attained and the failure we’ve confronted over the past four years will be a catalyst that sparks great achievement ahead.

High school is like an amusement park. At first it feels intimidating, but eventually you become more comfortable. In the beginning someone holds your hand, but soon you learn how to pave your own path. At first it seems so big and so full of endless possibilities that you could stay forever. But eventually you outgrow it, and you realize that’s perfectly healthy. The roller coasters don’t seem so tall anymore, and you’ve won all of the prizes that you set out to get. Eventually, you begin to crave new experiences because you see a whole different world exists beyond the fence.

So look back with fondness. Look ahead with excitement. But never forget the roots you created here on Souderton soil, because those will never leave you. Never forget the ties you made here, because those last forever. And never forget the people who were by your side, because the ride wouldn’t have been the same without them.