Editor's note: St. Charles East High School graduate Serena Thakkar was the features editor for the school's The X-Ray news site and president of the Key Club. The West Chicago resident plans to attend Loyola University in Chicago, where she will major in multimedia journalism.
They say high school is when you find yourself, but for me, it was different. High school was a journey where I lost myself, and then had to peel back the layers of cultural conditioning to uncover who I am.
Freshman year, my expectation of straight As transformed into restless nights attempting to balance a varsity sport and AP classes sophomore year.
I was set on attending an Ivy League, participating in clubs I had no interest in, and even contemplated joining track, and believe me when I say I'm not a runner. Nothing's wrong with these goals, but if you asked me why I chose them, I wouldn't have an answer. This was what others were doing, so it seemed fitting to follow suit.
Remote learning during junior year was a blur; however, senior year I finally began returning to my roots. After contemplating what to pursue, I discovered that my passion lies within my childhood dream: journalism. I formed relationships with people whose sense of self allowed me to unearth my own values. Those I spent time with were unapologetically themselves, inspiring me to do likewise. New friendships taught me that the extra stress I burdened didn't land me any further, and victories didn't mean much if I didn't enjoy the journey. I overcame my need to always be productive, and started doing activities simply because they made me happy.
Identifying my definition of success was critical. When I caught myself comparing my life to others, I evaluated if my actions reflected my idea of success. This served as a reminder that the only person I should compare myself to is the disparity between my ideal and real self.
By no means do I know who I am and what my future beholds, but I do know what I value. I value curating relationships with individuals who have open minds and curious souls. I value unconditionally accepting my constantly evolving self. I value prioritizing my mental health above my fear of what others think.
Tears were shed. Victories were celebrated. Lessons were learned. Thank you for everything STCE.