Throughout my years of high school there have been plenty of tough moments, particularly when I’ve been slammed with test after test and assignment after assignment. Keeping up a decent GPA while still finding time to do clubs and get a couple of hours of sleep has never been easy, to say the least. But throughout it all, there has always been a light at the end of the tunnel: senior year. More specifically, second semester senior year. It sounded like paradise, from how my upperclassmen friends would always describe it. No more work! No more college applications! No more class! Just a ton of free time to sit back, relax and enjoy the last few months of school with your friends!
When second semester started in February, it felt surreal to me. I had finally reached this Mecca, gotten to this legendary time only spoken of in fables and Facebook posts. Now I’d have so much spare time to do everything I’d ever wanted to do, from sleeping eight hours a night to learning to drive to submitting my columns to The Jewish Link on time! (To the editors: I hope that made you laugh.)
But the semester has ended up far different than I ever expected. (Disclaimer: I’m not speaking for every high school senior; many seniors do have relaxing second semesters and I’m happy for them—but my experience has been different.)
First off, a little something called Advanced Placement stands in my way. I was taking four AP classes and will be taking three AP tests, which meant that in the beginning of the semester I still had a lot of classes and still a decent bit of work, even though teachers were no longer assigning tests. Even though by now those classes have technically concluded, I still have prep classes and work to do to prepare for the tests. (Ramaz divides the second semester of senior year into five “blocks” of time; the AP classes continue for the first two. Well, technically “honors” classes. I could talk more about the schedule and how the classes work and all that, but then I’d need the rest of the paper.)
Then, and more significantly, I’ve found myself drowned in extracurricular obligations more than ever before. It was only this semester that I truly realized I had taken on too many clubs, yet it was impossible for me to back up now. I had to help finish the yearbook, which we totally submitted on time in March and didn’t actually submit in the beginning of April (guys, back me up here… oh, who am I kidding). I also had speeches and bulletin boards to help arrange for the Human Rights committee, halachot to study for Mock Beit Din, and most significantly, my obligations as one of the editors-in-chief of the school newspaper. I love my job, but it is a job—getting articles and laying out the paper and sending it to the printer and holding meetings and et cetera... It’s extremely time consuming, more so than some of the classes I’m taking right now.
(I may be forgetting a club/obligation or seven in the above list, to be honest.)
I’ll admit it: Some days, I’ve wished that I could drop all of it. I have caught a mild case of “senioritis,” and often I’ve felt like I have no motivation to keep moving forward with the stuff I need to get done. School’s going to be over soon anyway, I think—why keep on doing all of this stuff? Why can’t I relax? I do my best to remind myself, then, that I chose to do all of this, and that it’s meaningful. It’ll pay off in the successful speakers and newspapers and yearbooks that all my friends in school are going to benefit from, partly because I put in the effort. But I have learned my lesson about taking on too much; in the future, I’m going to try to choose one or two extracurriculars that I can fully focus on, not 50 or so that I think I can juggle.
Overall, senior year’s second semester has been, for me, a lesson about expectations vs. reality and about how real life can intrude on any sort of paradise. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the wonderful stuff that’s occurred this semester, much of which was able to happen because I did have some more spare time. I took driving lessons and now am willing to brave the wild terrain of Route 4. I attended the AIPAC Policy Conference with my school for the first time. I had five (!!!) school friends over for a weekend where we schmoozed and played basketball over Shabbos, and had a “grand old time.” So while things have often been tough during second semester, there have been plenty of positive moments.
Now, as I write this column, I have only two months left of high school—I graduate on June 16. It feels surreal that four long but rewarding years of Ramaz are going to be coming to a close. So while second semester may still be busier than I’ve expected it to be, I want to savor this last bit of time until I bid farewell to my friends and until we all go our separate ways. That may be hard given the obligations I still need to fulfill, but I’m going to do my best to get everything done while still breathing a little bit more, as my high school career reaches its conclusion.
Oren Oppenheim, 18, is a senior at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan and lives in Fair Lawn, NJ. He spends his free time writing and reading, and hopes to become a published novelist and a journalist. You can email him at [email protected] and see his photography at Facebook.com/orenphotography.
By Oren Oppenheim