In my two years, one month, and some odd number days at Stuyvesant, I have never seen a bulletin board that did not have at least one poster taped to it. Freshman year, I took my time reading the posters that stood out to me: the ones that had cool names, or creative designs. All these posters called out to me, inviting me into each and every club and team. It was my freshman year: I could do anything. But freshman year is not the only year to do what you wish.
As cliché as it may sound, there is no better way to put it: it’s never too late. I’m not the only one who found new niches later in high school. When I tried out for the Girls’ Varsity Tennis Team there were six girls who were not freshmen who tried out. When the roster went up of who made the team, there were eight new members: seven freshmen, and one sophomore. The returning members did not care what grade the new players were in. They were interested in how we played, who we are as people, and how we treated others. I made some of my best friends after trying out. Older players helped me out in classes I had trouble in; they were a second group of Big Sibs to me. The sophomore is now one of three team captains and someone I would have regretted not meeting.
In past years, when I asked my friends to come with me to interest meetings, they told me that they had to study and do homework. When I begged my friends to come with me to the first Open Mic of the school year, their excuse was that they’d never gone before, and it was too late to start going now. Homework and studies were always a fallback. I was stuck going with returning members rather than my best friend with whom I wanted to share the experience with. Not only did this mindset affect me, but it also hurt my friends. It’s their junior year, and they’ve never joined a club. You can’t go through high school simply thriving on getting good grades. It is illogical and a destined to lead to unhappiness.
I had never been to Open Mic. I had heard of it, but I never actually went until this year. I even took a chance and signed up days beforehand to speak. I was beyond nervous. When it was my turn to speak, I introduced myself and mentioned that it was my first time speaking. Suddenly, the entire library erupted with applause and welcoming phrases of encouragement. That minuscule moment made me feel as if I was returning to these meetings, rather than going for the first time. No one looked at me with a question on their face asking why I never came before. Everyone was good-humored and either commented on my piece, or welcomed me to the monthly event.
This feeling of contentment washed out the competition of fear. Fear of judgment, fear of nerves, and fear of rejection. It’s a huge blow to the ego: rejection. But you can’t find rejection at Stuyvesant. Not without a fair fight. There is no crew, no club, and no group of students that will reject you because you didn’t join in previous years. Prospects of joining a publication, a theater group, a dance crew, a club or a team are always there; the door is never closed, and there is no sign that says “Freshman Only”. Rather than rejection, you find friendships. You’re walking into a room full of students who love doing exactly what you love doing.
During my freshman year, I joined the Girls Varsity Tennis team, and I danced in Stuy Squad, as well as in SING!. This defined me as the dancer who played tennis. It would seem odd and out of place to my friends if I ever auditioned for the Fall Musical or the Spring Comedy. Freshman year defined me, but that should not be an unalterable mold. There is always room for change in high school. I’ve been a junior for two months, and currently, my defining quality is my writing. Yes, when people look at me, they still think of the dancer who plays tennis. But they also see that girl who wrote something for Open Mic, joined the Opinions section of the Spectator, and whose nose is always in a book. I was redefined.
Rather than letting myself get defined in one year, I’m redefining myself in every moment. That’s the greatest part about Stuyvesant; it allows you to continually define yourself. We don’t walk into high school the same way we walk our. It changes us: high school, all four years of it, is our defining moment.