Make Your Own Choices

Skylar Bowman, Staff Writer

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Life is too short. A phrase used so often that it barely means anything when you hear it, though we all know it’s true. Life is too short. So why, then, do people do things they don’t want to do, and why do we let people tell us that certain things are what’s best for us when we know they’re not?

No matter the reason, we shouldn’t. Take a minute to think about the time we have; there’s barely enough to follow through with our own choices, never mind the ones that someone else has made for us.

There is a vast difference between a trusted adult giving real individualized advice to students, and someone trusted deciding what is best for students based on generalizations that don’t always fit the individual person.

Part of a school counselor’s job is to give advice and provide guidance, but that guidance can sometimes turn into pushing. A push in a healthy direction is one thing, but a push in a direction that you have no interest in can be burdensome.

I’ve felt pressured by my counselors to take certain courses that I didn’t want to take or had no interest in for years. But it’s not just Barnstable High School— friends I’ve talked to from other towns, such as Sandwich, feel the same. Why do counselors do this? Because of college.

Students need to take more basic science classes like physics to get into college, students need to take more AP classes to get into college. It’s a competitive world out there.

But I’m not shooting to go to Harvard, to be frank, and I don’t think that most state schools would care if I took human anatomy instead of physics; they didn’t when my sister was applying. In fact, avoiding physics was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my high school career. College doesn’t have to mean sacrifice– I was less stressed that year than I had been in a long time.

Furthermore, students have different thresholds for challenging classes. What’s considered a challenging transcript to one student might look easy to the student sitting next to him.

Of course, there is no problem with challenging yourself. If taking five AP courses a year is what works for you, then that’s amazing. However, knowing your personal limits is important, and most people have a lot to balance without adding five AP courses to their load, or even one.

It’s definitely not wrong to encourage students to take on more difficult classes, but teachers and counselors should not preach the same challenging courses to every student who passes by them on the schedule meeting conveyer belt.

Many students also have schedules that are far more full than they’ve ever been. For instance, I work every day after school and then go straight to Yarmouth for dance. I don’t get home until roughly eight every night and by then I’m exhausted and only thinking about dinner.

I know my personal limit, and I don’t believe that opting out of an AP course this year has made me a wuss. This is my last year of high school, my last year of milking out being a kid, and I chose to enjoy it and enjoy my classes. Contrary to some beliefs, I will still find success in college and later in life even though I advocated not to take AP Lit. my senior year of high school.
That choice was right for me; I’m not saying everyone should make this choice. What I’m saying is that if it feels right, it’s okay to take a different path than the one that students similar to you are taking. No teacher or counselor knows you better than you know yourself.

But pressure can be felt from a variety of sources. Parents often have ideas and plans for their children that don’t always match what their kid wants. As high school students, there’s not much time left before we have to make important life decisions on our own— so start making them now.

You are your own person, and you do not have to listen to your parents when it comes to vital decisions about school or what you do after school. You simply don’t. Take in your parents’ opinions— they do have more experience than you, but your choices do not start to be yours the day you turn eighteen or go to college. They are yours now.

The life experience that we do have makes us who we are, and that is the experience that should count the most in our decision making. Not trusting your own gut because someone else tells you there’s a better path or a better job or a better life is only betraying yourself. No one, including your parents, has the right to make decisions for you. You have more power than you think.

We, students, know what our limit is. So please listen. When we seem hesitant about a class, ask us why we’re hesitant instead of shoving it more forcefully down our throats. Advocating for yourself can be hard. Just because a student doesn’t outright say they disagree with the classes being suggested to them, doesn’t mean they aren’t uneasy about it on the inside. Ask us.

And students, speak up! Your counselors won’t know what you want and what your limits are if you aren’t communicating. Counselors are there to help and they have our best interests at heart.

But advocating for yourself goes beyond school and classes. If we advocated for what we wanted in all aspects of life, we’d have a lot less regrets.
People often forget that knowing what you want is a gift. Don’t throw that gift away by letting life and other opinions close in on you. Stick up for what you want, it’s important to you for a reason. If you’re passionate about something, blow on that flame and guard it. Don’t let anyone diminish it.

These four years of high school and the coming years after are special, and you will not get them back. Live them on your own terms and do not apologize for it. You can go against your better judgement and take the class you never wanted to, go to the college you weren’t that interested in, chase the job that made the most sense, but life is not here to make sense. If you make those choices you might end up miserable, you might not. But isn’t life too short not to find out what was waiting for you at the end of a self paved path? One that filled you up and kept you whole and felt like you?

Don’t just take the path less traveled by, take the path that isn’t there yet. When you advocate for yourself, no other path and no other life will feel more truly yours than the one you’re living.