If there was a bingo game for high school seniors, it would go something like this: Put a chip down if today someone asked you where you’re going to college. Put a chip down if today someone asked you what you want to do with your life. Put a chip down if you’re relieved to be leaving home. No? Ok, put a chip down if you’re terrified. Maybe a mix of both?
My senior year has absolutely whizzed by. It seems like we spend our entire lives building up to the milestones of the last year of high school: applying for college, prom and graduation. I remember all the little details of my preparations, from making a vision board at the end of junior year to picking out my last first-day-of-school outfit, to meticulously combing through college guides dozens of times. And then suddenly I blinked, and it was February. Now all my college applications are submitted, and my only obligations are keeping my grades up and trying to not stress too hard about where I’ll end up next year.
Everything seems to contradict itself. It’s surely an exciting time, but simultaneously a scary one. Senior year is a time of “firsts”—the first time being the oldest at school, the first time getting to sit at the front of the bleachers at football games and the first time being allowed to go off-campus for lunch. Yet, it is also a time of “lasts”—the last time living with parents, the last time being a kid, last time having other people always looking after you. I’ll be moving out at the end of this summer, and I can’t wait to look back on this article in a few months and reflect on how much life will have changed in such a short amount of time.
This strange, happy transitional period begs the question of reflection. I’ll be on my own soon, which means I’ll essentially have no restrictions. I’ll be free to do what I want, believe what I believe and make my life what I want it to be. One of my close friends has been dreaming about college for years. For her, it’ll be a time when she can finally start fresh, and this includes leaving the church she grew up in. I began to wonder; do I feel the same about Judaism? Is it something I want to take with me to college? And, in another vein, is it stupid to pray for college acceptances? Does G-d have more important matters to attend to? I’m not totally certain about most of the life questions I have right now.
Of course, no one’s path looks the same. Some of us will start to work, some of us will go to college and some of us might take a gap year. The common thread is that we are all beginning to build our own lives for ourselves and leaving our familiar ones behind. I believe it’s important to have humility and to be respectful of the life that everyone may choose at this stage.
Judaism has taught me to not think that I am above anyone else. At this year’s high holy days service, my rabbi taught us a popular reform Jewish saying, originally from Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pzhysha: Everyone must have two pockets. In his right pocket are the words: ‘For my sake was the world created,’ and in his left: ‘I am but dust and ashes.’ While this definitely seems dramatic in regard to high school, it holds an important message for everyone: we always get caught up in our day-to-day struggles, sometimes being too egotistical and sometimes too insecure, but in the end, we all share one purpose. We are all always facing new beginnings and endings, and we are all working towards achieving the potential that our lives possess. So, cheers to every high school senior out there that are beginning to start their life. For your sake, the world was created.