Every weekend I teach two SAT classes to high school juniors and seniors. When I first started, I thought I would struggle with connecting with the students. I thought there would be problems I couldn’t solve, situations I wouldn’t know how to handle, advice I didn’t know how to give.
Well, I was right about that. Every week there is a new problem, a new anecdote, a new experience to share with my family and friends. Sometimes I walk away dumbfounded, like this weekend when our class, in the middle of a practice exam, was kicked out of the building and forced to finish the test on picnic benches outside, and sometimes I walk away encouraged, like when a student first told me that they were getting something out of the class. Everyday I’m there I learn something new about myself and working with others.
On Sunday, I took five minutes out of my class time to answer any questions the students asked. Although it surprised me how excited they were, it didn’t surprise me that they wanted to talk about their future plans. It really brought me back four years. They were asking about the Common App (never had to fill it out), AP classes (I took way too many), my personal statement (I have no idea what I wrote about), which colleges I applied to (University of Illinois, Tulane, Miami University in Ohio, UConn, and of course, St. John’s) and any advice for their senior years (enjoy it!). As I answered question after question, I realized that the four years separating us, which I had worried would be too great, were really not that long at all.
Very shortly, I too will be writing personal statements and cover letters to accompany my applications and resumes. I too am studying for standardized tests after standardized tests to give myself the best possible opportunities in the future. I will also be applying to place after place hoping to find a place where I can fit in for the coming years. I too am preparing to say goodbye to the life I have grown to love over the last four years. And I too have to face the fact that everyone I know, all the people that I have grown to love here, will not be together next year. Just like them, I will be transitioning from one stage to another. This time I at least have the benefit of having done it before.
The disadvantage I have this time around is that I can’t forecast where I will be in the next year, or two years, or five years. In high school I knew that I would be at a school. I didn’t know where or what I would be doing there (never would I have guessed that I’d be the Managing Editor of a student newspaper) but I knew I would be taking classes and getting an education.
Now I could end up anywhere. There is nothing dictating where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, Nothing is scarier than the unknown. I could be back in school getting my JD or MBA next year. Or I could still be teaching SAT classes part-time trying to pay my rent while I search for full time employment. I could still be in New York in my same apartment or I could be back home in Chicago living in my parents’ basement or I could be in Spain hopping from hostel to hostel.
I have no idea what next year will bring, but instead of being scared or worried, I’m going to choose to be excited. Just like the students in my classes, there are exciting things ahead of me – even if I can’t quite figure out what they’ll be.