External forces

Behind the memorable highlights of my high school experience—thrilling wins at state conferences, late nights in Room 200A, and the transcribing of hundreds of Candygram messages—there have been equally memorable tribulations.

Our first year of high school was left unfinished due to COVID; our second year was unrefined due to online school. Unlike the majority, I decided to stay virtual for the rest of sophomore year. Reflecting back, I am filled with both  unease and gratitude over that choice. Despite losing a year of comprehensive calculus lessons, I gained a joyful year of artistic experimentation, individual growth, and a close bond with all the other sophomores taking AP Chemistry. While I would use nothing other than the word “turbulent” to describe my sophomore year environment, I still found stability in Merionite breakout rooms, TSA projects created over Zoom, and friendships solidified via FaceTime. In a year without a formal school environment, I was still able to grow.

In reflecting on my high school experience, I have realized the drastic impact of my surrounding environment. My peers and teacher in AP Chemistry became my closest friends, and their passion for learning, drive for success, and empathy motivated me to become a better student, peer, and person. Spaces like Asian Culture Club, TSA, and The Merionite have taught me to express myself and my creativity without holding back. From this reflection, I have come to the not-so-shocking conclusion: I am simply a product of my environment.

All this to say, surround yourself with people who push you to achieve your goals, projects that inspire, and places that allow you to grow. Even though my high school experience is not shared by all, this remains true: there will always be forces that motivate and inspire.

For seniors, as the wind of our past four years subsides, I encourage you to take in your surroundings; look around. Who inspired you? What motivates you?

As we move forward, I hope you, like myself, will hold onto these inspirations and motivations. Continue to surround yourself with spaces that encourage growth. Hopefully, we will not just be products of our environment. Hopefully, our environment will be a product of us.

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