As I reflect on the medley of chaos and thrill that dominated my high school experience, my mind continually wanders to the misfortunes that haunted my senior year. I floundered in a sea of profound sorrow and personal battles. The dawn of this four-year endeavor seemed intimidating, but starkly differed from the tribulations I encountered in twelfth grade. It seemed as though the further I advanced in high school, the deeper I settled beneath a sea of struggles.

My self-assurance on the first day of senior year contrasted remarkably with the uneasy shyness of my freshman self. I recall how confidently I got out of my silver Nissan Sentra and strode through the pebbly pavement towards the lively cafeteria. Upon spotting my best friend, Nicole, I ran towards her and squeezed the breath out of her; we constantly giggled and wore huge smiles on our faces as we headed towards our first class of the year. We were now the revered seniors, attracting the admiration of the novice freshmen.

“I am SO excited for homecoming. We’re doing powderpuff, right?” Nicole reminded me.

“Duh. Even though we know nothing about football. We’re going to do everything, so that we can make the most of our last year together, remember?” I retorted.

We giggled as we entered the familiar classroom. Posters of all sorts of literary works hung at odd angles from the beige walls and a mixture of known and unfamiliar faces resided in the desks of the musty space. I greeted my Academic Decathlon teacher, Ms. Mathew, and settled into a tiny desk. As the final bell softly rang throughout the hallways, Ms. Mathew shuffled to the center of the classroom. All eyes converged to her as she introduced herself and began detailing the program’s curriculum. I spaced out while she presented this familiar information to the rookie Decathletes. However, when Ms. Mathew’s tone shifted from silliness to utter seriousness, I felt queasy.

“Although the first scrimmage includes all members of Higley’s ‘AcDec’, the team will eventually cut down to nine competitors, who will participate in the regional and state competitions. This means you’re going to have to devote much time to studying the material to score high enough and to experience the entire competition season,” she declared.

Though I was thoroughly familiar with the class and the competition, my mind flooded with anxiety and doubt. I quickly brushed the anxiety off. Yet it is peculiar how this sentiment would stream behind me throughout the whole year.

Soon enough, my friendship with Nicole began to fragment. Her personal life was ridden with discord, which affected our relationship. She sparingly contacted me, embarrassed to disclose what occurred within her familial sphere. I tried helping her, but she wouldn’t let me. I witnessed the transformation of our sisterhood. I didn’t anticipate it. Our seemingly everlasting bond unexpectedly corrupted. We seldom texted or spoke on the phone, and she physically distanced herself from me in school.

It was a sunny Friday. Thankful for the school having ended, I raced home and into the comfort of my warmly lit room. I gazed at my phone’s vibrant screen, anticipating a message from her. No new notifications. I put the thing aside and tried to distract myself with stale activities, hoping to forget what had happened. But then, I began to cry. The tears streamed down my face as I realized our friendship was crumbling. At this point, I began drowning in a vast sea of misery. Our senior year plans broke the surface of the sea and tumbled into the ocean’s dark abyss, permanently lost. Just like our friendship.

Though I had many other friendships, no relationship compared to the one that had just ended. I felt alone. I was brutally forced to experience senior-year novelties alone. I concealed my pain through my schoolwork. Fortunately (though later unfortunately), I enrolled in five AP classes and became president of the Academic Decathlon club. The advanced material demanded strenuous hours in studying, my instructors immodest in assigning homework. Aside from that, college applications and scholarships awaited my attention. Initially, I wholeheartedly delved into this realm of constant work, because it distracted me from my personal struggles. However, the workload became too much to bear. Most nights, a dim lightbulb brightened my untidy workspace as I frantically scribbled answers on my homework. My once splendid distraction transformed into an untamable flurry of anxiety, deadlines, and tension. My life felt mechanical: I lacked sources of genuine joy owed to the work demanding to be completed. The schoolwork robbed me of time to develop my friendships and severely limited the time spent with my family. Unintentionally, it managed to sink me deeper into my pain.

Months passed and the highly anticipated announcement of the exclusive Academic Decathlon team of nine arrived. I jiggled the doorknob and boldly entered the mundane room; a ray of hope glimmered within the muting ocean’s depths. I took pride in my discipline in studying the program’s curriculum and in my active participation in class. My preparation for this moment led me to firmly believe I would integrate into the quaint group that would represent my school’s Academic Decathlon team. Once again, Ms. Mathew assumed her position in the center of the classroom. Everyone knew the nature of her announcement. My hands jittered with adrenaline.

“So, I decided that the students who will represent Higley’s Academic Decathlon at regionals and state will be: Emily, Zoe, Josh, Naya, Katy, Ivy, Jonah, Brooke, and Kyle,” she revealed, almost indifferently.

Bitterness and dejection soon enveloped my soul. This was the most important project I had been working on. Yet my efforts seemed oddly insufficient. Angry at the loss of this grand opportunity, I grew envious of the students who took part in this elite team.

How could my dedication be overlooked? I deserved this, since I worked so hard. Why would she do this to me? I thought.

Being overlooked for the Academic Decathlon team, along with my loneliness and overwhelming schoolwork, propelled me to assume an attitude of indifference and aloofness towards my surroundings. I could believe how terribly my senior year developed. A cloud of constant gloom settled over me, resulting in my further retracting from my social environment. I reflected my innate shyness with everyone, even those I managed to form comfortable and close connections with. No longer was I the girl with the air of self-confidence evident at the beginning of the school-year. For the first time in my life, I completely detached myself from my friends and family. My parents couldn’t understand the magnitude of pain I felt and demanded that I quickly get over my problems. I knew my troubles weren’t the worst thing that could happen to someone; but, they still inflicted profound grief and heartache.

The trials heightened and my inner dissatisfaction expanded. I grew desperate to graduate and escape this solemn territory of despondency. I hopelessly tried swimming away from the weight attached to my ankles, but it pulled me closer to my ocean’s bottom. I was drowning. I was depressed.

Throughout this entire period, my sadness consumed me; I couldn’t understand why this had occurred to me, which only distanced me from overcoming my depression. I continually wallowed in self-pity.

Certain experiences seem unconquerable and demand pain to be felt. But one must persevere. It is vital to accept the inevitable episodes of suffering and pain presented by life; rejecting pain delays maturity and heightens the emotional struggle related to the negative experience. This precisely happened to me. I did not want to acknowledge that chapters of unhappiness are bound to settle in my life, which deepened my internal hardships.

Once I managed to recognize this pattern, the weights that once held me down to the sea’s abyss slowly lightened. And now, I am resurfacing.

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