A Semester in Review

I’m going to start off by saying that this was hands-down, no-doubt the worst and hardest semester of my life. But I’m going to continue by saying that much of that has had to do with my selfish attitude, more than anything.

It seemed like everything I earnestly tried, I failed. Even the things I’d taken for granted that I’d obtain (Latin Club elections). So many things going wrong, that nearly every week there was a new crisis (I must sound so pathetic and self-absorbed right now; sorry). Each crisis would prompt a full-on crying session in Latin (1st period) or APUSH (8th), and if the latter, it’d usually continue into the car with Marika who has had to comfort and calm me too many times this semester.

So here are some examples: the what-am-I-doing-with-my-schedule debacle, losing the Latin Club elections, being bullied by a substitute teacher, failing at Nutcracker auditions, the SAT situation, YoungArts (the applying and the losing), completely messing up at the piano Solo Contest, (not Asian) failing a Physics test, etc. etc. etc.

All of this, added to the increasing pressure of college admissions and the feeling that my entire future’s at stake with every misstep (which, alone, resulted in quite a few crying sessions at home… feeling inferior and hopeless, etc.). Also, the regular things like classes (linear algebra!) being extraordinarily difficult this semester. I can’t explain the mental scream I’ve lived in, and likely will reenter as soon as this break ends.

When I shared this with my youth pastor, he asked me how I’ve grown during this time. I said, “More cynical.”

I think that perfectly encapsulates the wrongness of my approach to things. I think I’m so funny, or unique, or special, just be being snarky. It takes a whole lot more courage to be mature, selfless, removed from my skin as I write on this blog, than to be emotionally flailing and scathingly cynical. I think I’ve been so emotional and dark when dealing with these events, because I want to make you know the truth.

“It wasn’t a question of deceit. Just the opposite; he wanted to heat up the truth, to make it burn so hot that you would feel exactly what he felt.”  – The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

I haven’t exaggerated anything beyond the happening-truth, no (I contemplated, just fancifully, suicide, many times, which was, again, selfishness). I just haven’t censored my feelings, have tried to depict the darkest truths of them.

Here’s the reason, I think: I’ve long felt that adults don’t really believe that teenagers can have struggles. They must be thinking, “There’s a family with a dad dying of a brain hemorrhage,” or “I’m struggling with a choice that will shape my entire career for the next twenty years,” or, you know, things that actually matter in the long run. I’ve long had the sense that they see teenage struggles as less important, petty, even. I was trying to show the world that teenagers can hurt deeply and wrenchingly, just like anybody else.

I think they’re probably right, though. I just have the selfish mindset that, because I am hurting, this hurt is real and important—even if I’m hurting over something as silly as a high school club election. The hurt that comes along with a family death must be more valid than my hurt over losing a writing contest. Are there levels to hurt? There must be.

Along that vein, then, my only real claim to hurt in the past year was the death of Alexei. But even then, I wasn’t his closest friend or his family member. Do I have a right to feel hurt? When his parents are no doubt entitled to the justest hurt?

I don’t know how to explain that life is hard in the face of world hunger and global grieving people. It’s because I’ve been selfish as to not be thankful. No, I haven’t been thankful.  Maybe thankfulness is, after all, the key to all this. Maybe thankfulness, even if stifling my drive to succeed, would have been enough, and will be enough.

Now that I think about it, I really do believe that the undercurrent force in all this has been college admissions. It’s what has allowed seemingly trivial things to bulldoze me over, because this year more than ever, I’ve felt that every mistake or failure brings me closer to—or over—the line between acceptance and rejection. That’s largely what’s figuratively killing me. Next steps for me will involve taking a good look at what I really, truly want out of the college admissions process next year and how much of my sanity I’m willing to trade for it.



Isabella – 12/26/16,

remembering Alexei.


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