As a high school senior and knowing what I know now, what would I tell my Freshman self?” I would tell my Freshman self to stop before you break yourself. I hoped that anyone would notice the hours I spent doing homework, the constant obsession over tests, the amount of control I had to have over clubs, sports, and activities, as my resume for college was carefully being crafted. A high GPA and an accelerated coursework selection, all tailored for the top schools in the nation cost many sleepless nights to maintain. My schedule was packed with volunteering, internships, and research. There was a standard for me to achieve and I was going to exceed it. Not until now do I realize that this unrealistic expectation was set in place by no one other than myself. I would tell my Freshman self that earning a perfect resume is not the goal of high school and that you need to spend more time focusing on the things that truly make you happy.
My accomplishments were simply the only thing that constituted my self worth. I felt so entrapped in the letter that I would receive on my report card that anything less of an A, made me feel worthless of the life that I have been given as an immigrant. I moved here from Ukraine and the direct privilege that I have to even explore the opportunities available, fuels me to constantly be working. I would tell my Freshman self that making mistakes is part of the process of growing up and I wish I made more of them.
Immigrating from Ukraine, my childhood suddenly got cut off when I was only eight years old. I was constantly behind my classmates who already spoke the language that sounded like gibberish to me. Any time I spent not working felt like time wasted. Everything became a competition. I would compete against myself until there was no human being left, but rather a robot wired to complete tasks. I would tell my Freshman self that working harder does not always make you win the race; that life is a marathon and you will burn yourself out trying to sprint it.
I was so obsessed on becoming the perfect college candidate that I isolated myself from those I loved. I held a titanium exterior because I didn’t want anyone to see a human when I was asked to translate to my Grandma- the closest person to me, the woman that raised me, that her stage IV cancer was inoperable and that chemotherapy wasn’t working. Even then, in her last days, I studied for the pointless tests. I was naive in thinking that if I filled my hours with work, I would be able to bring her back. I would tell my Freshman self to cherish those close to you and remember that everyone's days are limited. Do not break yourself to become something that appears great on paper, but rather become someone that is so unique and versatile that your worth could not fit an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet.