Since the moment I flung my cap into the air at graduation, I’ve tried my best not to look back. Don’t get me wrong, high school gave me just about everything I could have asked for — lifelong friendships, a first love, unforgettable memories and hell, maybe even a little knowledge too. But since I received that diploma, my first instinct was to look to the future, to the bigger and better things to come. Throughout the summer, my friends and I joked that some of our classmates really needed to “close the yearbook” and leave high school behind. As summer turned to fall and my classmates departed for college, I recognized the bittersweet ending in this part of my life but also eagerly awaited my future at Stanford.
Fast-forward to Week 8 of winter quarter. Between staying up until 5 a.m., struggling to finish my CS 106A assignments (damn you Yahtzee), and being rejected from quite a few opportunities that I really wanted, you could say Stanford was getting the best of me. As it turns out, the accolades that I received in high school actually did me a disservice, making me ill prepared to face defeat. Luckily, I thought I had just the inspiration to turn myself around this past weekend — a trip to Nationals with my high school dance team, the defending champions of last year’s hip hop category.
The competition represents the culmination of the girls’ intense practices, from learning the routine in early August all the way to just before boarding the plane to Orlando, Florida in early March. Similar to my other trips to Nationals, this weekend was filled with plenty of laughter, pride, positivity and of course, glitter. However, this trip to Nationals felt surprisingly different to me.
On the plane ride to Orlando, I started getting flashbacks from last year’s competition. I remembered what it felt like to be part of a team with girls who would do anything for each other. I recalled sitting at awards and squeezing my co-captain’s hands so hard that her skin turned white, eager and nervous to hear our placement. I replayed what it felt like to hear “Your national champions… Ladue!” and I remembered bursting with excitement, smacking the floor as hard as I could and picking up whomever I could find. This was one memory that I simply could never “close the yearbook” on.
Excited to get the chance to experience this memory all over again but this time from a coaching perspective, I reunited with my teammates Thursday night with high expectations for the weekend. However, things didn’t exactly go as everyone hoped. Though their routines were flawless, the girls didn’t walk home with the first place trophy this year. While I was disappointed in their ranking, I was also extremely impressed with the girls’ response. I was humbled to see that each and every girl felt proud of herself and her team. Even more, from the moment they walked off with their sixth place trophy (which by the way, is a huge accomplishment in itself), I could sense a fire lit within the girls to come back even harder next year.
Going into this trip, I expected a quick pick-me-up. Perhaps I thought that seeing my teammates win would remind me what it was like to be the over-achiever I was in high school and allow me to reminisce on the glory days. However, as it turns out, what I gained from this weekend was much more valuable. Getting to see my friends face the results with such grace made me realize how to cope when things don’t go my way in my life. Seeing the girls handle themselves this weekend with such poise was truly helpful for me.
It got me thinking about my own high school experience. After this weekend, I took a look at past photos, called an old friend or two and even read some of my old work. Getting to look at these things with a fresh eye showed me times when I changed, times when I failed, times when I determined what my values were and times when I really betrayed those values. These insights made me contemplate so much about myself and who I want to be.
Though I agree that “closing the yearbook,” to some extent, is vital to succeeding post-high school, I also now see the benefits of reflecting on moments from high school. Taking the time to consider the past can make you think about it differently. Perhaps this new perspective can help you realize things you never understood before and provide you a new lens to use in the future. Cracking open that yearbook from time to time may not be so bad after all.