Given the Opportunity, but Never the Freedom

By Milena Beltramo

It’s the last quarter of my senior year. I know where I’m headed to university this fall. I’ve
submitted all my applications on time, and I’ve filed countless essays for scholarships. I’ve
taken all the suggested honors and AP classes, and earned the grades that I was told to. By
all accounts, I did everything right.

My profile probably fits a lot of the graduating class. But when I take a step back, all that
“success” blurs together, and I don’t feel that sense of accomplishment I thought I would.
Instead, that lovely luxury called hindsight kicks in, and I feel regretful.

What happened to that gold-leafed dream they offered us out of middle school, the
promise that in high school you could pursue your interests, you could take sculpting
or aerobics or sociology? I always wanted to sculpt. But then in ninth grade there were
honors classes to be taken, required Personal Fitness and Teen Health, and naturally
all college-bound students should have at least two years of a foreign language. When I
became an upperclassman it was worse. If I was to hold any potential at all to get into the
university I wanted, I had to take Honors This, followed by AP That, which in turn should be
supplemented by AP The Other Thing.

The classes I wanted to take had been swept to the side to make way for the classes I “had”
to take, the ones they tell you are optional, but not really. And by the time senior year rolled
around, I realized that I never sculpted, I didn’t take Aerobics, and sociology didn’t fit into
my schedule.

Now, by no means do I find that the classes I did take were unpleasant. Quite the
opposite really, with teachers like Brady, Samal, Borgquist, and Cox, who made school as
entertaining as it was educational. Rather, it was the lack of choice I had in the matter that
I know find so regretful. What happened to the freedom we were promised long ago, the
right to choose our destinies, to carve our tiny paths? As teenagers, we are so restricted in
what we can choose for ourselves; we are still subject to the authority of our parents, to the
school, to the law, to each other, and it saddens me that we received the freedom to choose
our classes in name only.

There is no easy place to shelve blame, and thank goodness for that. We could blame
the district for requiring so many classes, we could blame universities for requiring more.
We could blame the government for establishing curriculum laws so purposely broad and
generic that they ended up being helpful to no one, and strangling us all. We could blame
ourselves for going along with a system that is twisted and broken, and never saying a
word.

At the twilight of my high school years, I don’t want to blame anyone. I don’t regret the
course I took, but the power of hindsight to see that there was no other choice, not if I
wanted to “succeed” anyway. I only regret the way I never got to choose, and never got to
experience the small liberties that our high school years are supposed to afford us. It has
made me nostalgic in a way that leaves me feeling decidedly short-changed.

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