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Goeun Park: Surviving the emotional ups and downs of senior year

Being a senior is the best, they said. It’d be fun, they said.

As my friend Katie puts it, “That is a vicious falsehood.” I’m sure everyone who told me for the past four years that being a high school senior would be the didn’t mean to deliberately mislead me into a bottomless pit of too much tears and not enough sweat.

In the end, it was all my own doing. Or rather, my undoing.

I was on the phone with a friend the other day and she said something about finding an old journal full of excited hope and grand plans for high school. Something about being disillusioned by reality almost an entire high school career later.

That’s what I feel like sometimes, 18 and exhausted. Earlier this year, I noticed that I trudged to school like corporate drones marched to their cubicles. I noticed and for a long time, I didn’t do anything about it. I figured that I came to high school to get things done, and I was getting things done...eventually.

Mostly I was sick with worry about where I’d be sleeping in six months and paranoid that I’d finally lose my head and end up in school without pants or even worse, without chapstick.

If there’s anything senior year has taught me, it’s that I can’t have everything. I can’t commit to 47 activities at once or perpetually pile on homework without breaking my back, combusting into metaphorical flames, and burning out like a wimpy supernova. The glorious invincibility of youth has failed me.

There’s not enough space in my head to cram all the things I want to know and all the things I need to know to pass tests or write essays. For example, I can now take fancy derivatives but I’ve lost my ability to multiply numbers by seven in my head. (Really, what’s four times seven? I don’t know!) You win some, you lose some.

When I pulled myself up from my senior slump and started to put myself together, this is what I picked up: It’s OK to not be OK sometimes. It’s OK to feel positively hideous inside and out one fine morning and not want to go to school.

It’s OK to feel disgusted with the world, disgusted with rapists and bombers and horrible people who send letters laced with ricin. But the thing is, I went to school anyway. I talked about how horrible the Steubenville rape case was and how terrible the Boston bombings were rather than shutting myself in my room to sulk because a discussion is the first step to fixing things.

It’s OK to not be OK but it’s not OK to not try to make it OK. Phew, that was a lot of OKs. What I’m trying to say is, things will always get better but it’s our responsibility to want to get better. It’s our responsibility to not quit.

While some people are blessed with effortless bliss, I need to frequently remind myself to stay calm and carry on. Being happy takes practice. It’s a constant battle between completely losing my faith in humanity one minute and crying about how much I love the universe the next.

A profound narrator of an equally profound movie, “Zombieland” (2009), once said, “Rule #32: Enjoy the little things.” So that’s what I’ll do. Instead of fretting about tragedies I can’t control, I’ll appreciate the small things like my parents buying me a $3.29 caramel macchiato even when I don’t deserve it and free Wi-Fi in laundromats.

Senior year so far has been an emotional roller coaster. The highs shot me up to the stratosphere and the lows shoved me down a ditch. It hasn’t been the best fun but it’s been something and now it’s about time I caught my breath.

Goeun Park is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.