Requiem for the High School Student This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 26, 2013
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I was nothing. Just a speck of minuscule dust floating around the room, just a tiny droplet of water in a pond—contributing to the whole, but still meaningless, utterly insignificant. If all the other matter in the room was to disappear, or all the water but the droplet drained from the pond, then I would be unique, though entirely unchanged. Sometimes, in the dark and quiet solitude of my mind, I would conclude that everyone was nothing, unless seen together as a whole, and then only as a conformed mass devoid of meaning. After all, one does not ruminate on the character of each stroke of paint in a work of art, but rather sees the art for itself, in a whole and complete entity. It was up to each individual person to be unique, and each one more unique than everyone else, though not unique enough to be seen as strange or queer, for though it was true genius which flowed through some of us, there may very well be another student across the world who was equally interested in number theory or the Fibonacci sequence, who was equally intent on success.

It was with this mindset that we worked. It was this dogma, this esteemed and glorified law, which sustained us through our sleepless nights, bloodshot eyes, and endless, endless fatigue. It was the belief that if we could just work a little harder, sacrifice just another hour of precious sleep, and go just a little farther, then we would fulfill the expectations set upon us to proudly flaunt a golden acceptance letter, complete with blinding rays of light and angelic voices surrounding, bearing the title of Harvard, or Princeton, or Yale, or perhaps Columbia or Dartmouth. So we all tried to be special, and instead of taking the path less traveled by, we created elaborate blueprints for an energy-efficient machine which would enhance others’ paths, and then we grabbed an exotic weapon in hand and began to forge our own, being careful to plant trees along the way.

Maybe at one time we felt like giving up. But after having come this far, having given so much of ourselves that there was nothing left, we plodded on, hoping for the best while dreading the worst. Often we felt spasms of cold, hard panic shaking our frames as we sat, motionless, armed with number two pencil in hand, battling the SAT or the AP Calculus Exam to the death. We used guerrilla warfare through private tutors every Monday and Thursday night, SAT classes every Saturday morning, and skyscraper stacks of review books, expertly designed by our expert knowledge of architecture and physics. Losing was failure, the disintegration of everything we had ever worked for—it must not happen; it will not happen with enough hard work. We were determined to win the game, no matter who we mowed down in the process, how much money we spent, or how much of ourselves we truly lost. We were determined to wear the crown of honor and plaster a Yale Student bumper sticker to our cars, even though we did not know who we were at the end.

After all, an individual is just a concept defined by everyone else. And we ourselves were a small price to give up for lifelong happiness and success, the first step of which was a prestigious university. So we endured the sleepless nights, the tunnel vision, the heavy backpacks, the unhealthy doses of caffeine with courage and confidence. And patiently we await the fruit of all our efforts, the lifelong satisfaction and happiness which we must surely feel. And at the end of it all, what else can we hope for?

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