Finding Clarity And New Perspective: My Chicago Experience


Photo courtesy of Anna Waldron

New dreams and aspirations filled the void I have been seeking to fill throughout my high school experience.

Kathleen Waldron, Staff Reporter

The early morning August air breezed by me as I said the final goodbye to my sister who would now live halfway across the country.

I sat in my car feeling jealous of her. I felt angry that she now gets to call Chicago her home, be independent, and live out real-world experiences. I couldn’t fathom the fact that I would be returning to high school for two more years while she lives out the life I have always dreamed of. 

During my first days of school, I was only looking forward to the fact that I would fly out to see her in late September. I knew that all I had to do was make it through the first three weeks of school and then I would arrive in the Windy City.

On the morning of our departure, I was thrilled, not only to visit my sister but escape from the reality that I desperately wanted to change. The reality that I felt like I was drowning in.

However, it felt impossible to do so when I was still a high school student and still unsatisfied with my life. I was still desperate to find a place where I fit in.

As the plane was landing, I leaned over my mom to take in the hundreds of skyscrapers right below us. I immediately felt the weight of my stress and anxiety leave my body. There was no person that I had to uphold expectations for or change my demeanor to fit in. 

I couldn’t help wondering if this is how every high schooler felt or if I was the exception. Was every high schooler just waiting until the day of graduation? The stress I felt at school about “where I want to go to college?” or “what I want to study” consumed my head. 

When I walked onto my sister’s campus at Loyola University Chicago, I was amazed by the independence each and every student had. I watched them walk across campus to get to the next class of their choosing. I watched groups of students laughing as they entered their dorm rooms. But above all, I witnessed how everyone found their place. I witnessed everyone fitting in, whether it be within friend groups, majors, hobbies, or extracurriculars, there was something for everyone. This was the ideal that I had been searching and hoping for throughout my high school career — a place where I felt accepted.

As simple as it sounds, I was relieved to know that there is something better beyond high school. 

When I arrived at my hotel later that night, I stared at the nighttime skyline of Chicago and for the first time, I felt content with my life as a high school student. I no longer hated high school because it felt unfair to hate something that would give me the opportunity to choose what I want to do with my life.

I began to notice the change in my view on high school. It was no longer something that I dreaded because the end goal — my future — felt too valuable to lose. 

As I said my goodbyes to my sister and the city I began to love, I found peace in the fact that I was going home. Despite how desperately I wanted to stay, I knew that this trip had given me hope – hope for my future – and I knew that all of it started with high school.

Since freshman year, I’ve understood that school-related activities don’t yield the same amount of enjoyment for me as they do for many others — forcing me to search for meaning outside of merely my school environment. 

For so long, I wrestled with the idea that “high school would be the best years of my life.” I realized that the narrative of “high school being amazing” made me feel even more discontent with my life. These narratives only gave me one perspective — one that I didn’t fit into.

I can finally say that I no longer feel obligated to do the things every high schooler does. I have accepted that the narratives of high school do not apply to everyone. I feel complete in my life knowing that high school is my stepping stone to the possibilities I have in my future.