Dear freshmen, here’s the deal. . .

When I auditioned for American Idol a little over three years ago, I had just come out of freshman year. I was confident that now was the time to make something of myself and I could do anything I set my mind to. Basically, I had it in my mind that if I didn’t do what I wanted then, I never would be able to accomplish my dreams.

The truth was, though, that I had no idea what I wanted. I thought coming to high school would change everything: something new and dramatic would happen everyday, people would gravitate towards me automatically, and my life would finally start. I thought I had already found who I was after three years as an awkward middle-schooler, what with my knee high socks, baggy skirts, and Ugg boots. I thought I was ready to conquer the world and high school was just a place where I’d be for the time being.

Looking back now, sometimes I don’t know what I was thinking. I was fifteen and I was so young, so how could I begin to think that I was ready to take on the world? You know what I needed? I needed four years of a great education at a great school to get me through.

Of course, growing up with a High School Musical-influenced state of mind didn’t quite help my situation: the next four years wouldn’t be a plain-as-day, black and white story where everyone would be divided into certain cliques: jocks and brains, goths and preps.

That’s why when I look back, I think I needed AHS more than I would have ever expected. The diversity of my peers, the mixture of experiences and interests we’d all have, and the encouragement and support of my teachers would all teach me that there is no such thing as being one thing or another. Because of my high school experiences, I’d find that I didn’t just have to be a singer and there was no one-way ticket to be successful in life. No one has it all figured out when they’re fifteen, as much as I wanted to believe it then.

I’d find that when I tried new things, such as the high school paper or when I finally got the courage to try out for my first high school play my junior year, my dreams changed. I didn’t want just one thing, because I was able to find that I was never interested or good at just one thing. High school was helping me become a more well-rounded student, but even more, it was helping me become a more well-rounded human being.

So I don’t want to sit here and tell you the usual advice: work hard, don’t be lazy or procrastinate, and focus all of your four years on making your family proud and getting into a good university. I want to tell you that high school is so much more than that: it’s not this black and white experience as I thought it would be: it’s a melting pot of opportunities that let you delve into who you are before you move on with your life and really figure out who you are.

I didn’t make it through during American Idol – the opportunity I saw as my last hope to “get out of high school, hit the road, and make a name for myself.” If I had made it through and hadn’t been able to fulfill my high school experience and discover all of my potential, I don’t think I’d be who I am today. There’s no shame in failure and everyone will do their share of it in high school, but it’s how you learn from those disappointments that shape who you’ll become.

So take advantage of the opportunities every single student gets to have here at AHS. Everyone can be successful, but as everyone knows, nothing in life ever comes easily unless you’re graced with a stroke of good luck.

You have been graced with one, though: being able to walk through the doors of Annandale and call yourself an atom for the next four years. Allow yourself to make it count.