By Kirsten Traudt
When I was plumbing my life for interesting anecdotes to relate during the college admissions process, I realized that, for over half my life now, I have written for school newspapers. It’s been a long journey from the tiny newsletter that I helped start at my equally-tiny private school in the fourth grade to The Broadcaster, where I learned to write, edit, and, starting this year, maintain a digital publication. It helped me realize that I love pulling stories out of people, which is what I have tried to do in my student guide to the Arab Spring, my cafeteria-food expose, my Broadcaster-exclusive interview with new superintendent Mackey Pendergrast, and my coverage of school and town events. I still remember my first article, about student voters in the 2012 Presidential election; I hardly recognize the terrified reporter timidly approaching strangers in the Atrium for quotes.
It is difficult for me to write a farewell piece, because although I am leaving The Broadcaster, I know that I will never be able to stop telling stories. I will always remember what I learned here; how to sniff out a story, how to stand up and ask the questions I want answered, how to communicate clearly and concisely, how to bring out the best in other people’s work, and how to see the narratives buried in the jumble of life at MHS. Being a reporter was one of the most rewarding things that I did in high school, and although my revisions have been seen more than my byline, I have never forgotten the thrill of creating original work.
However, in the final days of my tenure, I must admit that I have missed more than my fair share of deadlines. Although I am proud of what I have done here, I wonder what might have been this year if I had found the drive to write more stories, to push the publication to create more, to be better; in short, I wonder what I might have done had I not struggled with a bout of senioritis.
Throughout my high school career, I had been a try-hard, a go-getter, someone who never stopped except for occasional and involuntary lapses into sleep. I never thought that I would become a senior slacker. Certainly, I was not as bad as some of my classmates or friends who had gone off to college before me; I still show up to class on time, almost always hand in my homework on the right day, and have not committed an infraction bigger than going to the bathroom without first signing out on Canvas. Yet I still felt the siren song of senior year calling me, the quickly-dwindling countdown that enticed me to put off assignments to the last minute, read Buzzfeed in class, and, sadly, let extracurricular activities slip off my to-do list.
Part of this was certainly my fault. But, as the year went on, I began to realize that senioritis was not just my fault: it was everyone’s. It was the fault of teachers and administrators who let seniors off easy, doling out extensions and lowered expectations. It was the fault of seniors of generations past, who taught us that one’s last year of high school was supposed to be “easy.” It was the fault of the college admissions process, which forced us to spend our year reflecting and recounting and relating rather than allowing us to create new experiences. And, of course, it was the fault of the Class of 2016 for buying into all of it.
A lot of people may not find issue with this systematic encouragement of the senior slump. After all, we’ve worked hard for three or six or twelve years– isn’t it time for a break? And I suppose they wouldn’t be wrong. But, as I looked around my classrooms and club meetings this year, the only feeling I could muster was vague disappointment at all our wasted potential. As seniors, we are at the height of our powers in the grade-school system; we are the most-developed writers, thinkers, speakers, and leaders that we will ever be within the confines of Morristown’s borders. So, with every zombified class discussion, every project hastily cobbled together before the 11:59 deadline, every great idea that was proposed but never executed, I was saddened by the idea that laziness is a hard-earned right.
In our culture, we are taught to live for the weekend, to slog through until nothingness can be achieved. But why should that be so? Why can’t it be, instead of living for the weekend, that we teach ourselves to find purpose in the week, to learn from our elders that fulfillment is in work rather than oblivion. I am not advocating a huge, Scandanavian-style overhaul of our educational system, and I’m not saying that everyone has to find their joy in English 4 or AP Calculus. Rather, I argue that in their last year, seniors should be taught to engage with rather than detach from their communities, to revel in their ability to perform at maximum capacity. After all, isn’t a hard-won touchdown at the end of a game more exciting and fulfilling than a slowly-trotted home run in the bottom of the ninth inning? Besides, time flies faster when you’re having fun.
Of course, it’s hard to engage more fully with your high school when you’re nurturing a new allegiance to the university of your choice, often as early as December. I admit that I spent the month of April high off of college visits and brochures where life seemed much brighter, grander, and more exciting than the dingy maroon building that I had left behind. And this was when I realized that senioritis is about more than just our cultural propensity for leisurely victory laps; it is about impatience. By these last days of the school year, all 392 members of the Class of 2016 have outgrown Morristown High School. It is a fact of life. We have felt these growing pains all year, for reasons related to college for for reasons entirely separate from it, but whatever the reason, we all have a mutual understanding that it is time to part ways. To me, this is both inevitable and healthy; I would be worried if I still felt that high school was the right place for me to return.
So, to any rising seniors, I will tell you two things: embrace the growth that you will experience in the next year, but do not let it make you lose sight of what you love. Hold fast to the clubs you run, to the classes you are taking, to the relationships you care about, because those, and not your Netflix binges or days spent prone in bed, are what you will remember. Make your victory lap the end of a marathon, not the September Gym SGO. You deserve to live up to your potential. And it is with this message that I sign off on the Broadcaster for the final time. Good luck to you all, and have a wonderful summer.