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A 17-year-old looks back on high school

A 17-year-old looks back on high school

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As I write this (May, 2020), I think I have fully come to terms with the looming monumental occasions about to take place: turning 18 (4 days) and graduating (5 days). I am looking to my plans for the quickly-arriving future with optimism.

Being the sentimental and reflective Gemini, those visions of brightness and feelings of hope are starkly contrasted by the somber feeling of “moving on.” As my high school career comes to an anticipated and long-awaited end, I reflect on all I have done, experienced, and learned. The most important lessons are ones gained through experience. The most important lesson my experiences have taught me is that life changes always come with new opportunities that can push us to grow, if we let them.

Before high school, I was accepted into the School of Dance at Oakland School for the Arts. There’s comfort in familiarity, and I was familiar with my then-school. The desire to venture past the threshold of my comfort zone and experience new things was not a trait I possessed, so I was fearful to make the shift. Of course, what’s frightening about change isn’t the unknown, it’s that the unknown will be bad. What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t make friends? What if I’m not a good enough dancer?

After an entire summer of hesitation, tiresome vacillation between stay or go, and a final push from my family, I made my decision.

I immediately fell in love with the vibrant free-spirited atmosphere of OSA. In every student was a drive to create and a sense of purpose and community rooted in our various means of expression. It was an environment of boundless growth.

The hours of dance training and the no-nonsense approach -- and I mean no-nonsense, that my dance teachers strictly upheld in their program gave me much, but of all, confidence.

We were told to “dance big”, “let yourself be seen”, “stop being too nice”, “be generous”, and my favorite, “take up space.”

In dance, there is no hiding. The art of movement is by far the most physically and emotionally taxing form of expression. Vulnerable on stage, you make every part of yourself visible to an audience of eyes going every which way. The balance between technique and stylism is in constant teeter, but you’re the one in command over your body, and there’s so much power in that. There’s power in allowing yourself the freedom to make your existence known, to demand the spectator’s attention, to give all of yourself and expect nothing in return.

Before OSA, I wanted so badly to reside in the comfort of familiarity, but I’m so thankful I didn’t. I found a new sense of myself that was confident, self-assured, and unafraid to take up space.

I thought I would have graduated from OSA, but as I’m learning, things in life tend to be unpredictable. I missed OSA an enormous amount every single day, and longed to go back. A big issue for the sentimental-reflect-y type like myself is the tendency to live in the past, or dream of the future that has yet to come. The problem with this is that it can be easy to forget about the present.

There’s a saying originating from the jazz/funk genre that musicians and dancers know well and that is to “be in the pocket.” To be in the pocket is to be right on rhythm with the music, not a count delayed, and not a count ahead. I deeply missed my old school, but I see now that there are so many experiences and people I’ve met here at American Canyon High School who've impacted me more than can ever be said.

Admittedly, though, I spent the middle chunk of this school year wishing high school would be over faster. Countless times I found myself wishing to be somewhere else other than where I was. I’ve come to realize that you’ve got to be in the pocket, live in the moment, and you’ll find that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

We can wish we were someplace else, whether that be the past or the future, but we’d be wasting away all the precious now. Life has many opportunities in store, but you must be willing to accept the soil and climate conditions, and as my mom always tells me, “bloom where you’re planted.”

As my 18th birthday approaches and the end of my time in high school nears -- and as I conclude this essay -- I see that it isn’t a “moving on,” it’s a moving forward. Wherever I go, I’ll take my experiences with me. With the changes that come and the many opportunities that await as I emerge into adulthood, I’ll always know that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

Jennacess Carreon

American Canyon High School

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